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Giovanni Ribisi, Adrian Sparks

Giovanni Ribisi, Adrian Sparks

“PAPA HEMINGWAY IN CUBA”  My rating: C+

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.

(more…)

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