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