Director: Michael Grandage
Stars: Colin Firth, Jude Law
2 (out of 5) Globes
“You don’t know what it’s like to be aliiiiive,” Jude Law brays in his sing-songy Foghorn Leghorn twang. “Genius” is that kind of biopic: where history is writ broad and large, hamminess reigns and real-life figures are turned into machines dispensing overwrought declamations and clumsy exposition. It drops us into the New York literary scene of the 1930s, and so naturally Guy Pearce’s F. Scott Fitzgerald is forced to crow inelegant drivel like, “I should have died when I was 24 — right after ‘This Side of Paradise.’”
But “Genius” is also a different, more worthy type of history lesson: one with a genuinely novel hook. No, it’s not that it shines light on two key figures, one no longer as renowned as his contemporaries, the other almost entirely obscure except to experts and fans. It’s that it dedicates half its length to one of the most important parts of writing: chiseling and refining prose, like one would a sculpture from a block of stone.
A split biopic that becomes a bromance, “Genius” dwells on the relationship between brilliant but self-destructive/doomed author Thomas Wolfe (Law) and Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth), the stern man who served as his overworked editor at Scribner’s. Perkins was the man who discovered both Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Wolfe was another big find: a yokel from the backwoods of North Carolina, a child of god divinely gifted with words that flow from him like water.