Airily disregarding the Hemingway Unadaptability Principle, this quaintly racy version of Papa’s most hated novel has a few bullets in its barrel: Dynasty scion Jack Huston, as the Hem avatar, is dull but physically a perfect fit, the Mediterranean tourist-porn is addictive, and the story, unique in this particular corpus, is thick with sex. In fact, Huston (as a young American writer newly married), Mena Suvari (his flighty, androgyny-obsessed, kinda–Zelda Fitzgerald–ish bride), and Sardinian beauty Caterina Murino (as an Italian heiress whom the couple picks for sex games) all lounging around either nude or in buttery Pottery Barn tones can be a relaxing spectacle, with or without the absinthe. But Euro-softcore is as old as nipple rouge, and the sludgy narrative hinges on Suvari’s flibbertigibbet struggling with her posh-yet-second-class place in the world, which she expresses in snits and boyish haircuts. Meanwhile, we’re waiting for a threesome no one seems to have the walnuts to suggest. Director John Irvin, whose hapless 40-plus-year résumé runs from early Schwarzenegger to late Harold Pinter, never gets in the way, but the resulting sangria cocktail is mild, unchallenging, and kinda dull.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 8, 2010