So, I watched the HBO biopic Hemingway & Gellhorn, starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman. I have read and enjoyed the bio of Martha Gellhorn, a respected and well-known war correspondent in her day as well as a travel journalist and novelist, and of course, the exploits of Papa Hemingway are legendary. I’ve seen the documentary on the Spanish Civil War, Spanish Earth, the making of which is depicted here, and I found that aspect fascinating.
A great deal of actual footage from that war and WW II is integrated into the film, which uses special effects to put the actors into the vintage footage. It’s a volatile and fascinating period of history, without a doubt, and you have two larger-than-life personalities, both talented, narcissistic and egotistical. It seems inevitable their passionate affair and marriage will burn out, since they fight as much as they make love. It does.
My feelings are definitely mixed about the end results, however.
Some of the lines are groaners. The script is littered with platitudes. Some of the characters are pretty one-dimensional. I confess I wonder if Hemingway was as much of an insufferable a**hole in real life as he is often depicted to be here. Clive Owen is a gorgeous, sexy man but I kept wanting to “man up” and punch Papa’s macho lights out, frankly.
And then we come to Nicole Kidman. I had a lot of problems with Nicole in her role as Gellhorn. Actually, I’ve been having problems for years with a certain aspect of Nicole.
Talented, certainly. Beautiful, without a doubt. But I really, really wish she would stop messing with her face. I saw her recently in a film from early in her career and she almost looked like a different person from the woman I saw in H&G.
While we all change somewhat as we grow older, we don’t change that much, not naturally, anyway. Your nostrils don’t grow smaller, your Cupid’s bow doesn’t periodically disappear from your upper lip, your eyebrows do not elevate–well, you get the idea.
She’s lightened up on the Botox, thank goodness, and doesn’t have those tell-tale batwing brows these days. She was actually able to crinkle her forehead slightly in some scenes of H&G. Still, at times she looks almost too–doll-like in recent years. I miss the originality, the quirkiness of her natural beauty.
Nicole is 44. At 44, no matter how much you stay out of the sun, don’t smoke and take care of your skin (the measures that keep her complexion so perfect, Kidman claims), you should have a few lines and creases in your face. Character. By that age, you should have some character in your face.
I know actresses often have to do things to maintain their looks in order to keep their careers alive. Unfair, but there you are.
And they often play characters younger than their actual ages. Therein may lie some of the problem. Gellhorn, who was born in 1908, was in her late 20s, some 15 years younger than Kidman, when she met Hemingway.
Gellhorn was a very attractive and glamorous woman, but she was also expressive. Nicole’s facial expressions don’t really mirror the robust personality of the writer (Gellhorn has been described as a woman capable of awe-inspiring rage). Nicole’s Gellhorn doesn’t look as if she’d get really worked up over much of anything. I don’t think it’s a terrible performance by any means; but for me, it was missing something essential.
It concerns me that Kidman may keep up this tweaking as she grows older to the point where her face won’t move at all. She won’t look young, she’ll just look–weird. And ultimately it will limit the roles she can effectively play. And that’s a shame.
It’s not as much of an issue for men, but I do hope Richard does not ever feel the need to succumb to paralyzing his face, nipping and tucking. I don’t honestly think he will; he’s aging beautifully and I think that will continue. In terms of his acting, he is so dedicated to getting the details right and has never minded making faces that can be downright unattractive at times. Think of Thornton giving that thrashing or some of Guy’s thunder faces.
An expressive, mobile face is an actor’s friend, surely? Anyone?