Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth) edited Hemingway’s and Fitzgerald’s books, and besides his admiration, he became their friend. Naturally, the same happened when Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) walked into his office one New York ordinary day in 1929.
Expecting to hear the usual dreadful words from the editor: “we regret to inform you we’re not interested”, Wolfe is surprised by Perkins when this kind man actually liked his writing and gave him $500 dollars in advance to finish his first book, Look Homeward, Angel.
From then on, Max treated Thomas as a son, while Wolfe looked up to him as a mentor and father. They worked extensively for months and years to edit the novels (one of them was 5,000 pages long). Wolfe not only expanded on too many details but he also added paragraphs again and again. It came to a point when Max had to demand him to stop writing.
His second book, Of Time and the River, was such a success that critics began calling Thomas Wolfe a genius. Most of the time however, as history has shown, geniality brings along its own distasteful companions. In this case, it was jealousy, arrogance, and insensitivity to other’s feelings. Wolfe’s ego caused unnecessary strains in his relationships with his mentor, his dear Aline (Nicole Kidman), and his fellow writer Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) who confronted him about his ungratefulness towards Perkins. At the end of his life, Thomas wrote a note to Max Perkins that was as sincere and touching as the novels they had both worked on together once.
This 2016 movie, although modest in almost everything, is worth watching because of its humanity lesson and the intrinsic value placed on friendship and priorities. When the end credits roll, you will wonder who is really the genius the title refers to.
See also with Colin Firth: The Railway Man (2013), The King’s Speech (2010)
See also with Jude Law: Enemy At The Gates (2001), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)