Posts Tagged ‘Joely Richardson’

Lois Robbins, Jonathan Rhys Meyers

“THE ASPERN PAPERS” My rating: D+ 

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Not even the presence of the iconic mother/daughter acting team of Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson can salvage the sodden shipwreck that is “The Aspern Papers.”

Julian Landais’ film is only the latest dramatic incarnation of Henry James’ celebrated 1888 novella (there have been a half dozen previous adaptations), but it’s such a spectacular misfire that it should scare the smart money away from future versions.

In the 1880s an American scholar comes to Venice intent on researching the life of the famed poet Jeffrey Aspern, who died 60 years earlier leaving a couple of books of devastating verse and a beautiful corpse.  Our protagonist and  narrator, unnamed in the book but here calling himself Edward Sullivan, is portrayed by an abysmally miscast Jonathan Rhys Meyers at his creepiest.

“Edward” rents quarters in the crumbling villa of the money-strapped Madame Bordereau (Redgrave), who was Aspern’s lover back in the day. The old lady is a hard, utterly unsentimental case, but Edward sees an opening in her spinster niece, Tina (Richardson).  He gets to work insinuating himself into the women’s lives, courting  the lonely, shy Tina as a way of accessing Aspern’s personal papers, a veritable treasure trove he is certain Bordereau possesses.


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Giovanni Ribisi, Adrian Sparks

Giovanni Ribisi, Adrian Sparks


134 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Papa Hemingway in Cuba” has a terrific back story.

In fact, how the film got made is considerably more interesting than the movie itself.

Director Bob Yari (up to now he’s had mostly producing credits), working from a semi-autobiographical screenplay from the late journalist Denne Bart Petitclerc, filmed his feature in Cuba despite the economic embargo imposed by the United States more than a half-century ago.  “Papa”  is the first American film shot in that island nation since Castro’s communist revolution in 1959.

Moreover, Petitclerc had an intimate relationship with the volatile author and his wife, Mary Hemingway, and his yarn drops a couple of bombshell revelations which feel like dramatic license but which Petitclerc’s widow claims are based on real events.

The picture begins with Petitclerc’s fictional alter ego, Ed Myers (Giovanni Ribisi), writing an unabashed fan letter to Hemingway. The Miami newspaperman is at first skeptical when he gets a telephone call from a man claiming to be Ernest Hemingway. But it’s the real deal, and “Papa” invites the young man to visit him in his Havana retreat.

The invitation leads to repeated visits to Cuba and a deepening relationship between Ed, Papa (Adrian Sparks) and Mary Hemingway (Joely Richardson). Ed is initially cowed by the couple’s bohemian lifestyle (skinny-dipping in the pool, all-night drinking sessions) but slowly fits in  with the Hemingways’ literary/political crowd.

As an insider Ed is privy to both the inspiring and the appalling sides of the Hemingway legend. Papa is a great literary mentor; he’s also an egoist, a  macho-infused drunk, and though only  in his late 50s, sexually impotent.

All this simmering upheaval takes place against a background of even greater unrest. Castro’s revolutionaries are a growing threat to the Batista regime, which responds with ever more repressive policies.


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