HBO film 'Hemingway & Gellhorn' mixes love, war

The new HBO film “Hemingway & Gellhorn” debuts at 8 p.m. Monday.
BY JACQUELINE CUTLER Published: May 28, 2012

The opening shot focuses on an old woman's strong, lined face. It is the unadorned visage of Martha Gellhorn, a trailblazing correspondent who covered the front lines when women didn't. Nicole Kidman portrays her, and Clive Owen is Ernest Hemingway in HBO's “Hemingway & Gellhorn,” debuting at 8 p.m. Monday.

The movie took executive producer James Gandolfini six years to bring to the screen, and director Philip Kaufman, in his first movie for television, explores how the writers met, fell in love, covered the world's main events and fought until they had to split.

Robert Duvall shows up briefly as a fascist flunky who comes within seconds of a deadly duel with Hemingway. Tony Shalhoub and David Strathairn, as writers Mikhail Kolstov and John Dos Passos, turn in excellent performances.

The movie does a terrific job of illustrating history — to which Hemingway and Gellhorn had a front-row seat — against their incendiary relationship.

Like most people, Kidman says, “I had heard of Hemingway. Of course, I read ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls.' I had no idea who she was. I so wanted to do her justice.”

As Kidman learned about Gellhorn, “I was blown away. I just thought she was remarkable.”

Gellhorn was. Despite being a magnificent war correspondent into her 80s, she is remembered mostly as Hemingway's third wife. She was a reluctant wife.

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