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Featured DVD Review: Hemingway's Garden of Eden

March 14th, 2011

Hemingway's Garden of Eden - Buy from Amazon

As the name would suggest, Hemingway's Garden of Eden is based on a book by Ernest Hemingway. Not just any book, but one published 25 years after his death. The novel itself was controversial, as it was posthumously edited from 200,000 words to 70,000 and the result didn't exactly please critics. The movie fared no better with just one positive review on Rotten Tomatoes. Finally, it crashed and burned at the box office opening below the Mendoza Line before quickly vanishing from theaters. All of this conspires to lower expectations, but will that be enough?

The Movie

The film starts at the wedding of David and Catherine Bourne. The pair met just six weeks earlier at a hotel in Paris. He is a writer who had moved to Paris after World War I, she is a rich American looking for an artist. He's not a successful writer, but that suits her fine, as it gives her the power in the relationship and power is what she seems to want. However, when he starts to earned his first taste of success, the relationship starts to sour.

While David begins to write a short story about his time in Africa as a kid, Catherine entices Marita, an Italian heiress, to first join her in bed, and shortly afterward convinces David to join the two of them. But when both of them fall in love with Marita, only one can have her.

Right now, Hemingway's Garden of Eden has a Tomatometer Score of just 5% positive, which is a little harsh, but not by much. It's a film that fails on nearly every level, from the dialogue, to the delivery, to the plot, to the eroticism. They even managed to make the French Rivera and other exotic locations seem dull by over-bleaching everything. The central relationship isn't believable, because we never really get a sense why David would be with Catherine in the first place. By the time Marita is introduced, the relationship is already doomed. (You know it's doomed less than 20 minutes in.) It would have been a better plot device if their relationship was fine, more or less, but in looking for a little more spice, Catherine inadvertently introduced the element that would be the undoing of their marriage.

The dialogue is groan-inducing at times. "When I look too deeply into a bar mirror, that's when I know I'm lost." It doesn't help that the acting ranges from wooden to campy. The word I would use to describe this film is dull.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD. At least I don't have to listen to anyone try to defend the movie in an audio commentary track.

The Verdict

A lot of Ernest Hemingway fans consider Garden of Eden to be among his worst novels. Some don't even consider it to be one of his novels, given all the changes that happened after his death. The adaptation, Hemingway's Garden of Eden, doesn't fare any better and most in the audience will struggle just to pay attention. Add in a featureless DVD and it is quite skippable.

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