DVD Review: Genius

GeniusDVDSTUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Michael Grandage | CAST: Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Guy Pearce, Dominic West
RELEASE DATE: 9/6/16 | PRICE: DVD $13.98
BONUSES: two featurettes
SPECS: PG-13 | 104 min. | Biographical drama | 2.39:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish

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

The life and times of fabled book editor Maxwell Perkins is brought to life in Genius, an episodic, atmospheric biopic by first-time director Michael Grandage, a British theater director with impressive stage credits (opera, Frost/Nixon, lots of Shakespeare).

Jude Law and Colin Firth in Genius

Jude Law and Colin Firth in Genius

Colin Firth (Kingsman: The Secret Service) is cast as the ever-patient Charles Scribner publishing house editor Perkins, whose creativity, energy and, well, genius, helped shape the literary careers of Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law, Spy), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce, Lockout) and Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West, TV’s The Affair).

Getting most of the attention here is the Perkins-Wolfe relationship, detailing how Perkins reigned in the undisciplined, unpublished writer, and the work involved in getting his stuff into print, including two years of whipping Of Time and the River into shape for public consumption. Also brought to life is Perkins and Wolfe’s father-son-like relationship and Wolfe’s stormy personal life, which includes an extramarital relationship with theater production designer Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman, Stoker).

Genius is an uneven affair boasting nice period design that captures the New York of the 1930s (even though it was filmed in England), a script by John Logan (TV’s Penny Dreadful, Hugo) from A. Scott Berg’s biography that teeters between low-key and bombastic and a showy, and occasionally irritating performance by Law as Thomas Wolfe. Ultimately, this one will work best for 20th Century lit lovers who are undoubtedly familiar with all the players.

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.