Hot Take: According to Papa, Hemingway was an asshole when he drank. He was boring, too.
The most the film about the later years of the life of Ernest Hemingway has to offer is a cinematic look at Cuba. Papa: Hemingway in Cuba was the first U.S. film to be made in Cuba since 1959. The visuals of the island are beautiful and stand out as the dull story of the decline of the literary giant as he offers an olive branch to a writer who sends him a fan letter.
Hemingway (Adrian Sparks) befriends Denne Bart Petitclerc (Giovanni Ribisi) after reading his heartfelt letter. Hemingway teaches him how to fish, brings him into his circle of friends and how not to act when drunk. Petitclerc begins enamored with Papa so much so he puts his relationship with Debbie (Minka Kelly) who is completely responsible for his meeting with Hemingway.
Very little happens of much interest with Hemingway and friends. We learn he’s suffering with writer’s block and contemplates suicide daily. He hates the war, supports the Cuban rebellion, is paranoid, can’t get an erection and drinks… a lot! When he drinks, Hemingway and his wife Mary (Joely Richardson) argue.
The shallow dramatization of Hemingway and Petitclerc’s relationship drags along to an uninteresting conclusion. We know how it ends for Papa but the film doesn’t even take you there as Petitclerc severs his relationship with his idol before his ultimate demise. So, we don’t even get that angle of the Hemingway history.
As the first film shot in Cuba in over 50 years, Papa: Hemingway in Cuba wasn’t worth the wait. It’ll be great to see future films shot in this beautiful, photogenic island. Just not this one.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
After seeing this location on the big screen, there will be more films shot here in the future, for sure.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Marginalizing the Female Cast
Joely Richardson and Minka Kelly have some very nice moments on screen but are relatively buried behind the male leads. Obviously, the story here is the relationship between Hemingway and Petitclerc but the one-dimensional storytelling makes for a dull viewing.
- The Shallow End of the Hemingway Pool
It would have been great to dive into the deep end completely naked but this one swims around in the shallow end of the Hemingway mythology.