Review: Hemingway's Garden of Eden DVD

STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: John Irvin | CAST: Mena Suvari, Jack Huston, Richard E. Grant, Caterina Murino, Carmen Maura, Matthew Modine
RELEASE DATE: 3/15/11 | PRICE: DVD $19.98
SPECS: R | 97 min. | Drama | 1.78:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

Hemingway's Garden of Eden movie scene

Mena Suvari and Jack Huston experiment with the theory that blondes have more fun in Garden of Eden.

Garden of Eden is a movie adaptation of a lesser-known, erotically charged Ernest Hemingway novel that was published posthumously in 1986. The producers’ decision to attach the author’s name to the front of the movie’s title was undoubtedly a desperate attempt to drum up some business. It didn’t work, and neither does the film.

The slowly paced story, set in late 1920s Europe, revolves around the nasty, bored heiress Catherine (Mena Suvari, American Beauty) and her considerably more mild writer husband David (Jack Huston, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse). Though they’re newly married, there isn’t much love between the two as they experiment with sexual role-playing and take up residence in a coastal home in France with a third lover, Marita (Caterina Murino) in tow. Catherine, jealous of David’s writing and his growing involvement with Marita, ultimately burns one of her husband’s pieces, a short story about his coming-of-age boyhood safari in Africa with his father (Matthew Modine, Frenemy).

The film bounces back and forth between the short story’s narrative and the main storyline, which should be the juice to keep the movie going, but it continues to remain inert — surprising given all the traveling and exotic locales).

The production values are fine and the acting adequate, but the era’s decadence and the story’s potential for high emotion and incident are never realized. As for the erotic element, yes, there’s a lot of sex, but it’s not titillating enough to satisfy those looking for anything spicier than the kind of softcore seen on late-night Cinemax.

No bonuses are included on the DVD, probably because there’s not much more to say.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.