Hemingway's Garden of Eden

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2 out of 5 stars
Hemingway's Garden of Eden

 

For an especially egregious bit of miscasting, look no further than Mena Suvari, star of this tony adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's posthumously published novel about a disintegrating marriage. Called upon to be an outwardly sensuous, inwardly distressed '20s flapper, the performer best known for s-curving her torso while reclining on a sea of digital rose petals in American Beauty struts around with studied mock confidence. You keep thinking she'll take a quick glance downward to find her mark in between all her deer-in-the-headlight readings of semiarchaic terms such as gamine. It's painful to watch.

As her Hemingway-like male counterpart, Huston (who stole the show as a half-faced assassin on the first season of Boardwalk Empire) at least leavens things with his pomade-slick machismo. But his efforts prove futile when the film introduces the sexpot (Murino) who comes between the couple on their hedonistic Spanish honeymoon. It's then that the risible yet still superficially entertaining elements---plush scenery, faux-daring soft-core sex scenes (ooh, she stuck her finger up his bumhole!)---reveal themselves as the groundwork for an overly bookish dissection of romance, gender and obsession. Some ineptly incorporated elephant-hunting flashbacks with Matthew Modine as Huston's cocky paterfamilias imply that all the characters's sexual hang-ups lead back to Dad. What David Cronenberg might have made of these scenes: Hatari! by way of Naked Lunch? We can dream.

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By: Keith Uhlich

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