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by Rose Finlay

Michael  Grandage, UK/USA

Maxwell Perkins  is generally considered to be one of the most important literary editors of the  early 20th century. He brought the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and  Earnest Hemingway to the fore of American literature at a time when many  publishers found them too modern and crude. Genius follows Perkins’ (Colin  Firth) complicated relationship with the undisciplined genius Thomas Wolfe  (Jude Law) as they struggle to edit Wolfe’s first two novels, Look Homeward,  Angel and Of Time and the River.

While Wolfe seems to have been an interesting  character, there is not much analysis in this movie about the reasoning behind  his behavior. No deep looks at his childhood and the development of his  writing, nor even much discussion about his revolutionary writing. The focus is  small, mostly taking place in Perkins’ office and comprised of conversations  about editing Wolfe’s extremely verbose manuscripts. There is a reason why  films usually focus on artists rather than the people who work behind the  scenes to make them famous. Artists tend to live wild and difficult lives,  which, while tragic, is good material for an entertaining film. A story framed  through the eyes of a good, calm, family man is not nearly as interesting as  one of an egotistical eccentric who still manages to produce beautiful,  important works, and that is the crux of the problem with Genius. It isn’t a bad film, just not a particularly compelling  one. Pair this with some wonky accents on the part of both Firth and Law, and  bouts of extreme overacting, and Genius falls flat.