Papa: Hemingway in Cuba movie full length review - A True Gem
The creators of "Crash", "The Illusionist", and "The Painted Veil" have done it again. Their latest movie, "Papa", a labor of love that took over 4 years to get to the big screen, tremendous commitment and dedication, grabs you from the first scene.
The movie opens with a seemingly innocent scene showing a small boy talking to his father. Unfortunately, the few carelessly words spoken by the man, will remain with the son the remainder of his life, a great lesson for us all, and one of a number within the movie if one pays attention. We then see the man as an adult, albeit an incomplete one. He is an outwardly successful and confident reporter in Miami, who is in a relationship with the perfect girl from the same newspaper. He has a secret though. For personal reasons, he idolizes Ernest Hemmingway, and has been struggling for years to perfect a letter which he has composed to the legend to thank him for writing the words that helped him learn to write and gave him his life's purpose. His stunning, but nosy girlfriend, played perfectly by actress Minka Kelly, sends his letter to the great man and this starts him on an incredible journey that will change all their lives. The letter must have been heartfelt and well written because Hemmingway calls and invites him to Cuba, and they develop a kinship. The movie is the first to be filmed in Cuba in 55 years, and stayed true to the times and place, shooting in Hemmingway's home, as well as Floridita, the Havana club he frequented. Authenticity was clearly important to the creators, as they even used Hemmingway's typewriter in the movie. As the movie progresses, one gains a giant glimpse of what life was in Cuba for those who lived there during that time period. We see the beauty as well as the ugliness. One also gains insight into Hemmingway's world, and what made him the man he was. We see how much beloved he was to the Cuban people, and his great love for them and the country. We see the introverted man who was often besieged by his fans and the public, a man tormented by the events he had witnessed in the war, during the revolution, as well as in his own past. We see a man who is a struggling writer, just trying to type out a few words each day, although, he clearly had more pressure than most. We see a man struggling with his day to day life not meeting his expectations, not unlike us all at times. We see a man struggling with depression and alcohol and the devastating effects of both. We are shown what makes him great, as well as what makes him human. One is reminded of the movie Crash in that both show we are not perfect as human beings. We all can do incredible things, as well as terrible things, and yet are neither all bad, nor or all good. Adrian Sparks plays Hemmingway, and truly seems to channel the man in portraying his extreme highs and lows. He is terrifying in scenes showing him as he loses his temper and self-control, and yet tender and loving to those he cares about in other scenes. His wife, played wonderfully by Joely Richardson, brings one further into his world and the challenges faced by those who loved the man. The movie does not shy away from showing how deeply depression and mental illness, as well as addiction impact those who struggle with such conditions, as well as all of those who care about them. The movie is gripping as it shows Hemmingway spiraling out of control and on edge, as well as the struggle of the Cuban people during the revolution, all as witnessed through the eyes of the "Kid", played by Giovanni Ribisi, who somehow manages to slip right into the time period and subtly and expertly captures the conservativeness of the time period and the perfect balance between confidence and insecurity as an adult who learns true humility and comes to be a man under the wing of a legend, who while a genius and larger than life, remains only human and still fallible like us all. Other notable performances include Shaun Toub and a cameo appearance by Mariel Hemmingway. The movie has a number of lessons, one of which is how we all determine our destiny via the choices we make. Do yourself a favor, and choose to see this true gem of a movie. You won't regret it.