Huffington Post’s Review: Again, not great

Movie Review – Jackie K Cooper
“Papa: Hemingway In Cuba” (Yari Film Group)

“Papa: Hemingway In Cuba” is a movie about Ernest Hemingway’s life during the mid 1950’s. At this time Hemingway was at the height of his career as an award winning novelist, but his mental demons were beginning to get the best of him. A newspaper reporter writes him a fan letter and is rewarded with an invitation to go fishing with Hemingway in Cuban waters. It sounds bizarre but it is said to be based on truth.

Ed Myers (Giovanni Ribisi) was working for a newspaper in Miami when he composed a fan letter to Hemingway. He composed it but he didn’t have the nerve to send it. His girlfriend Debbie (Minka Kelly) sent it for him, and Hemingway (Adrian Sparks) responded. He invited Ed to Cuba to fish and Myers went. The fishing trip and the letter were enough to bond the two men, and after this one expedition Ed received many more invites to visit Hemingway and his wife Mary (Joely Richardson) in Cuba.

Myers was an orphan and Papa Hemingway and Mary “adopted” him and became his family. Because of his close association with Papa and Mary, Ed was able to see Papa’s problems with writer’s block and also with the demons that haunted him from his past. Papa and Mary had a love/hate relationship which often ended up with Ed in the middle of their tirades against each other.

There is a lot of plot here and it is all interesting, however it is not particularly entertaining. This is because of the acting on display. Papa is the dominant figure in the story and tho Sparks is able to display a physical similarity to the man he never captures his soul or spirit. We hear the rants and moans but we never understand them. Plus these scenes appear just to be over emoting and not acting.

The same can be said of Richardson. She is never believable as Mary. She seems unable to make a decision as to her personality, and relationship with Hemingway. Was she a loving wife, a jealous shrew, or Hemingway’s chief tormentor? Richardson can turn on the tears but they seem to be crocodile ones.

The main flaw in the film, however, is Ribisi. He has made his career playing slightly quirky characters. In this film he is required to be the leading man and he just isn’t capable of doing that. Ed Myers is an ordinary man with a talent for reporting. He has a beautiful girlfriend and enough charm to worm himself into Hemingway’s good graces. A hundred other young actors could have pulled this role off with ease, but not Ribisi. It just isn’t in his wheelhouse.

The film is rated R for profanity, violence and brief nudity.

Hemingway is the preeminent writer of the twentieth century, so for some any insight into his life will provide sufficient reason to see this movie. But for those looking for a story with depth, and strong acting on display, this movie does not fill the bill.

I scored “Papa: Hemingway In Cuba” a novel 5 out of 10.

Jackie K Cooper

Review of New Movie: Papa Hemingway in Cuba–Not too good

I am sorry to report that one of the early reviews of the new movie with Adrian Sparks as Hemingway and Giovanni Ribisi as Ed Meyers, a young journalist, was pretty sour. Beyond loving the Cuban scenery, the description of the movie as wooden is an “ouch” moment. Instead of flashing back to some of Hemingway’s allure and greatness, it sticks with his last two years, admittedly not his glory days. I would guess, given that time frame, that there is much drunkenness and fights with wife # 4, Mary. So disappointing. Below is the full review. Best, Christine



Papa Hemingway in Cuba


By DAN LYBARGER Special to the Democrat-Gazette

This article was published April 29, 2016 at 1:53 a.m.

Ernest Hemingway (Adrian Sparks) can’t summon his muse in Bob Yari’s Papa Hemingway in Cuba, the first Hollywood feature filmed on the island since Castro’s revolution.

 Papa Hemingway in Cuba

68 Cast: Giovanni Ribisi, Adrian Sparks, Joely Richardson, Minka Kelly, Shaun Toub, James Remar, Mariel Hemingway

Director: Bob Yari

Rating: R, for language, sexuality, some violence and nudity

Running time: 109 minutes

Papa Hemingway in Cuba is reportedly the first Hollywood film to be shot on the island since 1959. The Almighty has blessed Cuba with captivating scenery, which belies over a century of human turmoil there. It’s too bad the people who stand in front of this scenery in this film aren’t that interesting.

In real life they might have been, but neither screenwriter Denne Bart Petitclerc, who actually knew the title character, nor director Bob Yari (better known as a producer of Crash and The Illusionist) has anything worthwhile to say about Ernest Hemingway or his time there.

Petitclerc has been dead for 10 years, and it’s easy to see why his script sat on the shelf until recently. If he had any unique insights into the Nobel Prize winner and his writing, none have made it into the final cut of this film.

As played by Adrian Sparks, Hemingway is a famous but drunken has-been. When he’s not fishing, he’s prone to bouts of paranoia and yelling matches with his wife, Mary (Joely Richardson). The writer hangs out with veterans of the Spanish Civil War and appears to have ties to the Cuban Revolution. He’s unable at this point in his 59 years to turn a blank sheet of paper into something magical.

Most of this stuff could be gleaned from a high school literature class or from listening to a barroom blowhard unable to discern truth from fiction. Without having samples from Hemingway’s clipped but often powerful prose, viewers are simply given the impression that he was an obnoxiously pompous bore who liked swimming naked. Petitclerc gives Sparks and Richardson plenty of excuses to yell at each other, but one quickly wonders why anyone ever sought these two out.

Instead of examining the author’s complicated life or re-creating the tension that surrounded the fall of Batista’s Cuba, Petitclerc and Yari decide to rehash the old cliche about never meeting your idols. In this case, Petitclerc’s stand-in for himself, Ed Myers (Giovanni Ribisi), writes Hemingway a fan letter and then hides it because he’s not sure if the note is worthy of the great writer’s time. Ed’s girlfriend (Minka Kelly) saves the letter from the waste basket and sends it to Cuba.

Much of the material seems to have been cobbled together from something that might seem more at home on The Hallmark Channel or Lifetime. On second thought, those movies are delivered with more subtlety and craftsmanship. Many shots seem stiff and clumsy, as if the only prerequisite for a successful take was that the actors were standing and breathing.

The folks behind those quickly made offerings might know better than to cast a 42-year-old as a cub reporter. It’s odd to hear Sparks and Richardson call Ribisi “the kid.”

The Revolution, which has been depicted in great films like The Godfather: Part II, Steven Soderbergh’s Che and Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba, is prime fodder for great drama, but when Ed has to tell Santo Trafficante (James Remar) to his face that he runs the mob in Cuba, it’s a sign that Petitclerc has no idea how to tell the audience who characters are without having to telegraph the fact.

At least we can see why Hemingway loved Cuba; whenever the stiff, profanity-laden dialogue ends and the people leave the landscape, nature reveals an island full of lush vegetation and gorgeous seascapes. It’s also great to see the distinctive architecture, like Havana’s Malecon seawall, and to hear the infectious music that comes from the island. If Yari were a more capable director (this is only his second effort in a 30-something-year career), he might have put the music more prominently in the mix to drown out Petitclerc’s drivel.

MovieStyle on 04/29/2016

Print Headline: Papa Hemingway in Cuba


Random Hemingway News

 News in the Hemingway World

                 1.            The 2016 winner of the Pen/Hemingway Award is a young woman name Ottessa Moshfegh. Ms Moshfegh was raised in Newton, MA is being honored for her first novel, “Eileen.” Patrick Hemingway, the son of Ernest Hemingway, presented the award on April 10th in Boston. A $25,000 prize was also awarded to the winner.

Patrick Hemingway 2013 at Hemingway Collection
Patrick Hemingway 2013 at Hemingway Collection


                2.            The Movie “Genius” is coming out with Colin Firth as Hemingway’s Editor Max Perkins. So far the feedback is mixed. The previewers were concerned that the movie lacked passion. If that is the case, I am sorry to hear it. The Perkins/Hemingway relationship is peripheral in the movie. The focus is on Max Perkins’  relationship with Tom Wolfe played by Jude Law. The movie is based on A. Scott Berg’s biography of Perkins.


Max Perkins
Max Perkins

                3.            Caterpillar, the maker of tractors and construction equipment, has donated $500,000 to preserve Hemingway’s home in Cuba. The donation was made for the restoration and preservation of documents and artifacts from the home of writer Ernest Hemingway. It will also be used for the construction of the workshop building which will house a laboratory with archived storage facilities near the Hemingway Museum in Havana. Today, the house turned museum preserves a collection of personal objects and documents including books, hunting trophies, guns, letters, photos, a typewriter on which   he tended to write standing up, and the yacht Lel Pilar on which he went fishing and sailed around the Caribbean.

The Finca
The Finca


Wife Number 3: Martha Gellhorn

Hemingway and Martha
Hemingway and Martha
Martha Gellhorn
Martha Gellhorn

About a year ago, I began doing posts on the wives and got sidetracked on other Hemingway issues. I posted on Hadley and Pauline, then diverted. Hemingway was married to Hadley Richardson for about seven years, i.e. 1921 to 1927. He was married to Pauline Pfeiffer from 1927 to 1940. He was married to Martha Gellhorn from 1940 to 1945. He met her in Key West when she was on vacation with her mother. Tall, attractive, ambitious, blond, smart, witty, and charming, he kept company with her first behind Pauline’s back, including when both were covering the Spanish Civil War. Martha admired his talent and bravery and he admired her looks, her talent and her courage. Hadley, Pauline, and Mary (wife no. 4) were deferential to Hemingway in the sense of wanting to please him. Martha was not. It was the one marriage he claims to have regretted and she certainly wanted nothing to do with him after the divorce.

 Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn in Sun Valley, Idaho, 1940. Photographer unknown in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn in Sun Valley, Idaho, 1940. Photographer unknown in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.


While Hemingway was hard to be married to, he had a kind, sweet side as well. A biographer of Martha Gellhorn uncovered some letters recently that made clear that he was very supportive of her career and all that she accomplished and could accomplish. That being said, he was at times jealous that she would take off to go on assignments as opposed to staying with him in Cuba when he preferred to have her there.


Martha was a strong woman ahead of her time. She was also a good friend of Eleanor Roosevelt and was a first-rate journalist in her own right. She never had children of her own, but adopted two. When her health was to the point of not being recoverable, she killed herself in London at the age of 89


Cuba is hot.
Cuba is hot.


Update: Review of London opening of The Fifth Column

This is a luke warm and unenthusiastic  review of Hemingway’s only play, but still, if you happen to be in London between now and April 15, perhaps worth a viewing.

The Fifth Column at Southwark Playhouse | Theatre review


Hardly mentioned and scarcely recognised among Ernest Hemingway’s renowned works, The Fifth Column is an overlooked piece that fits the aims of Two’s Company, which is to present forgotten theatre of the World Wars period. While some critics may argue that there is reason this play is typically disregarded as part of Hemingway’s literary canon, the show at Southwark Playhouse still results in a worthwhile evening.

It is 1937, Madrid; the brutal Spanish Civil War shows no sign of relenting, and impeding Nationalists besiege the city, its inhabitants subjected to widespread hunger and bombardments. Lodged at the Hotel Florida is a pair of American war correspondents who discover in each other a passionate, untimely love. However, in a play that deals heavily in themes of counter-espionage and faltering trust, characters fall prey to duplicity, and the antagonist must face the unmanageable choice between upholding his political convictions or his longing for the fulfilment of love.

Simplified lighting and sound effects are enough to create the tension and intensity of bombardment but not to the extent that they detract from the primary action of the play. Set designer Alex Marker for the most part successfully recreates the hotel as well as other locales in a relatively small space, except for instances in which Simon Darwen, as the lead, must poise himself on an armchair or a bed, and his towering stature dwarfs the stage’s proportions. A scene with the most physical, combatant action involving a Nazi cohort is awkwardly staged due to a lack of space for necessary movement. In addition to Alix Dunmore’s unfortunate wig, the underwhelming choice of costumes for the female roles is not reminiscent of a 1930s period piece, but rather, last season’s clearance rack.

The play is generally supported by a strong cast, even if accents falter a bit in the beginning (they eventually stabilise during the course of the play). Darwen’s portrayal of Phillip Rawlings, a counter-intelligence operative posing as a journalist, is rather aggravating at first, but Darwen’s feat is making an unsavoury character actually likeable. Although Dunmore is a pleasure to watch on stage as Dorothy Bridges (the rather dim-witted beloved), she perhaps misses the nuances of the potentially complex role and instead delivers a superficial character whose every line is meant at face value. The vapid romance between the two results in various scenes with rather uncomfortable dialogue, but this is as much Hemingway’s fault in composition as it is Darwen and Dunmore’s in execution.

Hemingway’s only full-length play pales in comparison to the pioneering style of his other prose works. The Fifth Column is very much a relic of a specific time and place, and, rather than attempting to valourise it as a “forgotten gem” it is probably best viewed as a literary genius’s ineffective excursion into a different genre.


Hemingway’s Only Play: The Fifth Column

War is serious.
War is serious.


Ernest Hemingway wrote only one play, “The Fifth Column.” Written in the late 30’s as his relationship with journalist Martha Gellhorn began to take root, the action takes place in Madrid and features an American who is hard drinking and posing as a correspondent although actually he is acting on behalf of the rebels. Much of the action takes place in a room in the Hotel Florida as Franco’s forces surround the city. Hemingway wrote it in the middle of the Spanish civil War and he didn’t know who was going to win the war so he had no benefit of hindsight.

Hemingway and Martha
Hemingway and Martha


At the time (1938 was when it was published) Hemingway was already a celebrated novelist. His support was solidly behind republican cause against the Franco forces which were following a fascist path.


Martha Gellhorn was a young journalist but she had written a book and was developing a strong reputation as a journalist herself. She’d met Hemingway in Key West and they’d begun an affair and met in Spain again as both covered the war. They later wed but the relationship went sour. They divorced five years later.


The play was not particularly well received. The main characters are Philip Rawlings and Dorothy Bridges and the plot raises the issues surrounding the Spanish Civil War as well as the ruthlessness of the rival factions fighting.


A young Martha
A young Martha

Actor Simon Darwen is playing Philip Rawlings and he notes, “Rawlings is a guy who is very jaded and very tired and his job is taking a toll on him but there is love for Dorothy. He convinces himself he can’t have her and his work so he makes the choice to be so awful to her that she pushes him away.” Although Martha Gellhorn herself was independent and fearless, Dorothy in this play is clingy, needy, and a bit of a light-weight.


Hem relaxed--with the beard
Hem relaxed–with the beard

The play just opened in London so we’ll see if it is better received than the original. It is running until April 15th.     


Biopic: Papa: Hemingway in Cuba (Movie)

A trailer has been unveiled for the Papa: Hemingway in Cuba movie. This biopic features the story of a friendship shared between Ernest Hemingway, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, and Ed Myers, a journalist.

Hemingway in Cuba
Hemingway in Cuba

I just viewed the trailer and it looks good to me. It echoes Hemingway’s relationship with his great friend, Aaron Hotchner, although this relationship started later in life. Hemingway, for all of his flaws, often was welcoming to young writers and willing to share his personal time and experiences generously.

Please take a look if you have time. Best, Christine

Hemingway’s Letters: Just a few more comments

‘‘It’s such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you’ve done something.’ Cambridge’s new collection of correspondence finds a writer generous to all, at the top of his game.

I have had two other posts on the letters so don’t want to over do it. Still, I can’t overemphasize the value in reading a bit about it to know Hemingway personally. This article summarizes why you should read some of them. They are funny, vulnerable, disclosing. Again, He specifically did not want them published. Those were his explicit instructions. Mary Hemingway, controller of his estate legally, went against that mandate. I don’t like that but I have to admit to loving his letters and what they reveal.  Read and enjoy.  Best, Christine

And he wrote to his Adriana
And he wrote to his Adriana
He wrote to Mary
He wrote to Mary

He wrote to Ingrid Bergman too<

Movie to be made of “Across the River and Into the Woods”

Plierce Brosnan will bring a little-known Ernest Hemingway novel to the screen, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

adriana and gun

EH2841P nd. Ernest Hemingway and Adriana Ivancich with stuffed lion. Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba. Copyright unknown in the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
EH2841P nd.
Ernest Hemingway and Adriana Ivancich with stuffed lion. Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba. Copyright unknown in the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

adriana on boat

hem and her

Across the River and Into the Woods was one of Hemingway’s poorly received books.  It was written while Hemingway was infatuated with Adriana Ivancich who was the prototype for Renata.  It still sold decently and at one point, there was talk of a movie with a very young Sophia Loren as Renata and Gary Cooper as the Colonel.  I liked the book but did not find Renata to be an interesting character or sufficient to draw the intense attention of the Colonel who clearly was partially based on Hemingway himself.  Should be interesting.Hem and Adriana, far right

Adriana type
Adriana type

More about Hemingway’s Letters

For readers of Ernest Hemingway, it can be tempting to mix the iconic writer’s fictional characters with the public persona of the writer himself. He never kept a journal and apparently integrated many of his personal experiences into his art.

More of Hemingway’s letters are being published and they are so revealing and fun. For example, Hemingway is known as being a bit of a bully to his wives yet some of the letters show great sensitivities to Martha Gellhorn  and admiration and support for her career as a writer. Please take a look when you have time.

Best, Christine

EH5598P 1940 Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn in Sun Valley, Idaho, 1940. Photographer unknown in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
EH5598P 1940
Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn in Sun Valley, Idaho, 1940. Photographer unknown in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.