Movie Review: Yari Film Group's Papa: Hemingway in Cuba

Opening Date: April 29th
Directed by: Bob Yari
Written by: Denne Bart Petitclerc
Produced by: Amanda Harvey, Bob Yari, Weezie Melancon, Michael Pacino
Starring: Giovanni Ribisi, Joely Richardson, Adrian Sparks
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, sexuality, some violence and nudity
Running Time: 106 minutes
Official Socials: Site | Facebook | IMDb
The first Hollywood film to shoot on location in Cuba since the 1959 revolution, PAPA: Hemingway in Cuba is the true-life story of a young journalist who finds a father figure in legendary author Ernest Hemingway. Their relationship began in the late 1950’s when Ed Myers, then a junior reporter at The Miami Herald, wrote a fan letter to his idol. Myers thought he was being pranked when the larger than life Hemingway phoned the newsroom a week later, inviting him to Havana.

Reviewing smaller, art house, films isn't an easy task.  Many of these are crafted for a niche audience. They are made for people who love history, appreciate poetry, stand for a cause or a myriad of other specific topics. Not everyone will love every topic and that's okay. 

This week's biopic, Papa : Hemingway in Cuba was made for audiences that love all things Ernest Hemingway.  While I appreciate many of Hemingway's works, I have never romanticized the man. Still, I can watch a movie about anything and I pride myself on my objectivity. 

The most entertaining aspect about Papa was the scenery. It's the first movie filmed in Cuba since the 1959 revolution.  The Cuban background is gorgeous. Hemingway's house looks majestic.  The movie is a time portal.  

I also liked the cast. Joely Richardson, as Mary Hemingway, impressed.  I appreciated her composed demeanor in the midst of a chaotic life. Adrian Sparks, as Hemingway, the creator of the chaos, was also very impressive.  Most of the movie was spent watching Hemingway's wild mood swings or alcohol binges. It never got old. I credit Sparks for that. Giovanni Ribisi, as Denne, was probably the best I've seen him in a long time, but he wasn't great. 

My big problem with Papa was the script. I've seen the adoring ingenue / older mentor movie done better many times. This film is based on a true story. But, the script comes off as formulaic and unoriginal.  I can't imagine that Hemingway would say the dialogue that was written for him. Anyone who has read any of Hemingway's works will expect better dialogue. A film based on actual events needs to feel more genuine. Papa lacks that. 

It's also a bummer of a film.  There is a lot of self-destruction.  The themes are heavy.  It's not all bad, but it is more than I would like to take-on for a Friday night. When I think of the cost associated with seeing a movie in a theater, I would like for the movie to be worth that cost. If you want to see Papa, wait for it on video.  If you are inclined to see it in a theater, look for Papa when it opens on April 29. 

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