Papa: Hemingway in Cuba
It’s no easy feat convincingly playing alpha-male Ernest Hemingway, but Adrian Sparks pulls it off in Papa: Hemingway in Cuba. The first Hollywood film shot in Cuba since 1959, it takes place in the late ’50s, when Hemingway is a full-fledged celebrity but has lost his ability to write. The plot hangs on the relationship he develops with Miami Globe reporter Eddie Meyers (Giovanni Ribisi), who discovered in the author’s works both the father figure he was lacking and a calling to become a writer.
Cuba’s piercing blue waters and lush tropical landscape provide a beautiful backdrop to the drama that unfolds as Eddie discovers how bad Hemingway’s bad days can be. Although the suffering artist trope is nothing new, it’s interesting to see it play out here, as Hemingway alternates between wise joviality and hopelessly drunk misogyny, lashing out at his fourth wife, Mary.
Subtlety is lacking in the film’s portrait of the author—multiple shots show him stroking a gun (as if we didn’t know what his ultimate fate would be), and although shot in Cuba, the action is mostly confined to Hemingway’s home, with the Cuban Revolution merely providing background noise. That said, if you’re a fan of Hemingway, you’ll still enjoy Papa. I walked away wanting to learn more about this period of his life.
Should You See It? Yes, if you’re interested in Hemingway.
Viewed at Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema