In Genius Colin Firth plays the self-controlled American, Max Perkins, who was editor at Scribner when Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway wrote their first books. A man of few words, Perkins’s time is taken up in this story largely with Thomas Wolfe, a self-absorbed, insecure and immature – but potentially brilliant – writer. Jude Law takes the part of Wolfe, and captures well the writer’s frenzied, selfish ways. Nicole Kidman acts as Wolfe’s slightly unhinged common-law wife, Aline Bernstein, whose astute human insights are unbalanced by her very public and confrontational relationship with the writer. Max’s wife, Louise Perkins (played by Laura Linney), and mother to the couple’s five daughters, is contrasted with the caustic Aline, not so much because of Louise’s less volatile character, but because of her and Max’s more mature and value-rich marriage.
The friendship that develops between Max and Thomas during the publication of Thomas’s first book is interesting to watch – from dependence, to mutual passion, to obsession, hurt and distance, to forgiveness and growth. It is this, and the relationships already mentioned, that form the basis of this absorbing period film. Focusing on the human aspect and on values against the literary backdrop captured my attention. And, like its subject matter, the film runs as a complete story, with tension build up, denouement and conclusion. Very satisfying indeed.
Genius opens in cinemas in South Africa on 15 July 2016.