Hemingway & Gellhorn (Blu-ray)

November 7, 2013 5 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

I remember having to read Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms during high school. Truth be told, it didn’t make much of an impression on me. Needless to say, sitting through this film was something of a task for me. Nicole Kidman stars as Martha Gellhorn. Gellhorn (Kidman) narrates the story many years after the events in the film. Gellhorn is known for being the only woman to ask for a divorce from Hemingway. The film begins in 1936, Gellhorn first meets Ernest Hemingway (Clive Owen) at a bar in Key west. This is all during the Spanish war and traces the ups and downs of their relationship. The film runs long at 155 minutes and is more than a little uneven. There are plenty of fine actors that pop up here including David Strathairn, Parker Posey, Tony Shalhoub and even Lars Ulrich from the rock band Metallica. I can understand that this film might appeal primarily to a specific demographic, but I’m not one of them. It just didn’t hold my interest in any way. Kidman is always easy on the eyes and does a good job here, but I never bought into the relationship. She and Owen have little chemistry and it doesn’t help that the dialogue is rather clunky.

There is one element of the film that works well here. We see various clips of stock footage and photos and the actors are digitally inserted into them. This element is achieved flawlessly and was always convincing. I just wish the story was more captivating that what we get here. While I enjoyed Kidman’s performance here, I can’t say the same about Clive Owen. He appears bored throughout most of the film and his accent goes in and out too often. Director Philip Kaufman has trouble maintaining a consistent pace here as well. All too often, the film simply plods along without much purpose. Kidman’s narration closes the picture as well. These scenes just feel like filler. For those wishing to learn more about Hemingway or Gellhorn should look elsewhere. I can admire the craft behind it and it’s clear this was a passion project for those involved, but the end result is lackluster.

Video: How’s it look?

This is a solid AVC encoded transfer. The film uses a lot of stock footage and newspaper clippings that you can expect some shifts in the image quality. This isn’t a flaw with the transfer as it was clearly intentional. The black and white footage is still very strong and clear. The black levels are very strong and deep. The colors here are also well saturated and strong. Kidman wears heavy red lipstick in several scenes in this film and that shows up here nicely. I also noticed a few gray hairs in several of the actor’s hair and stubble. The various clips shown during the war also add great detail. There are some shocking images shown here and they’re all presented here with strong definition. This is a great transfer.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The DTS HD track here is strong as well. I admit having to constantly adjust the volume, but that’s just the way the soundtrack is. Sounds come in and out, making great use of all channels. Dialogue is always very clear and Kidman’s narration adds a nice boost as well. The war scenes also come across strong here, with the rear channels getting lots of good use. There is one scene where a bomb goes off and this has very nice depth to it.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This is a DVD/Bluray combo pack and we only get a few extras here. The disc begins with several previews for other HBO films.

  • Audio Commentary – Director Kaufman and editor Walter Murch give us their thoughts on the making of the film. A lot of the track is simply narrating what we see on screen.
  • Behind the Visual Effects (5:29) – This gives us a nice look at the visual effects seen in the film. This was nice to see how they integrated stock footage with the film.
  • Making Hemingway & Gellhorn (6:27) – Provides a pretty standard behind the scenes look. Don’t expect anything too insightful here.

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