Hemingway in Cuba
Ed Myers (Giovanni Ribisi) had a tough childhood.
As a little boy, he remembers his father taking him to see a
Christmas tree downtown, and saying to him, “Wait here.
I'll be right back.” His
father never returned. And
so Ed winds up being raised in a Catholic orphanage, an oppressive
atmosphere which he exited as quickly as he could.
Out the window.
Being a street tough didn't kill him, but it did teach him
some life savvy, and also that he really wanted to be a writer.
Having neglected much of his formal education, he tries
playing catch-up by getting a job at a newspaper, but they quickly
discover his lack of grammatical skills.
And so Ed, now a young adult, catches up by typing Ernest
Hemingway's short stories, word for word.
There, he not only learns proper language, he learns how to
express himself with emotional clarity.
It wouldn't work for everyone, of course, but it did for him.
His newspaper career as a sportswriter took a turn when he
accepted an assignment as a war correspondent in Korea (like his
literary hero Ernest Hemingway had also been a war correspondent in
Spain during Franco's revolution).
Now, in the late 1950's, Ed Myers is a prominent writer for
The Miami Herald, where a pretty woman in the newsroom, Debbie (Minka
Kelly), has her eye on him, but he tells himself he doesn't know how
to love, anyway. And the
marriages he's observed seem more like war zones than any emotional
comfort to anyone.
Ed realizes that Ernest Hemingway is currently residing in
Havana, just 90 miles away, and he longs to meet his idol and
literary hero. He even
writes a letter introducing himself to the prize-winning author, but
he's too afraid to actually mail it.
So Debbie secretly does it for him.
And lo and behold, the next thing he knows, Ernest Hemingway
is actually calling him on the telephone, inviting him to Havana for
“Papa” Hemingway cuts a larger-than-life figure atop his
fishing boat, patiently teaching Ed (whom he calls “kid”) how to
reel in a big marlin. Then
he invites Ed to the house to meet his wife, the lovely (and much
younger) Mary (Noely Richardson).
She's perfectly charming.
And perfectly comfortable swimming naked in their private
swimming pool, as is Papa. Soon
Ed loses his inhibitions, as well, and finds himself a frequent
house guest. Papa is
like the father he never had; Papa
seems to enjoy having an admiring protege around.
He claims he's shy, but he actually has few close friends.
Whenever he tries to go out in public, he gets swamped with
autograph seekers, even at his beloved favorite bar, The Floridita.
So he mostly just drinks at home.
And drinks. And
Yes, Papa Hemingway seems to have become his own caricature.
He's emotionally all over the map:
sometimes expansive and funny, other times boorish and crude.
And sometimes he treats Mary with the greatest courtesy and
respect, and other times he's incredibly cruel to her.
It's as if, after all the great literary awards, he doesn't
have any real writing left in him, so that just leaves him to create
some kind of home-remedy melodrama fueled by alcohol consumption.
Not really a pretty picture.
But somewhere in there, Ed manages to dig out a few gems of
good advice. Like the
importance of taking risks. And
figuring out what you want, and going for it.
Oh, and in the meantime, there's this revolution going on in
Cuba, which Ed writes about when he returns to Miami, with his
first-hand eyewitness accounts of battles around the Presidential
palace. Throw in a few
freebies about the FBI and gun-running for the rebels, and you have
all the makings of an outsize biopic, with nobody quite as charming
as they think they are.