Directed by Bob Yari and starring Giovanni Ribisi and Adrian Sparks, Papa: Hemingway in Cuba focuses on the author’s life in Cuba in 1959 before Castro took over. Based on the time Miami journalist Denne Bart Petitclerc spent with the literary icon, Ribisi stars as a Miami reporter named Ed Meyers who was befriended by Hemingway (Sparks) after his very personal fan letter was delivered to the reclusive author in Cuba.
Earnest takes a liking to Meyers and they begin an unlikely friendship in which Ed discovers his idol is a very complicated fellow. Hemingway was viewed as an entertainment God by many before the times of summer blockbusters and a thousand TV shows on your portable devices, but Papa shows a darker side of the troubled author. There are other plot points that could be perceived as forced that involve Hemingway being caught up in numerous reported conspiracies. Whether the allegations presented on-screen are true or not, the action makes for an interesting take on Hemingway. It’s up to you as an audience member to treat this film as the gospel or a work of fiction.
Adrian Sparks gives a strong showing as the man at the center of the madness in Papa: Hemingway in Cuba. Sparks takes Earnest from being a sweet father figure looking to dole out life advice to a violent drunk who you wouldn’t want to share a table with. You’ll love him, hate him, but most of all you will feel sorry for the old man who couldn’t get the mental treatment or support he needed in 1959.
Sparks brings the rogue author to life and shares many powerful scenes Ribisi and Joely Richardson who plays Earnest’s second wife Mary. The jealous spouse shares a toxic, yet loving relationship with Hemingway. The two actors hold their own against Sparks, but make no doubt. Sparks performance is what drives this film. The top-notch acting in Papa makes up for the slow burn and turns a simple story into something much bigger than it should be just like Earnest Hemingway did with his stories.
Shot on location in Cuba in 2014, director Bob Yari has made no secret the about the physical, mental and fiscal issues the Papa creative team experienced trying to bring this film to American audiences. Most of the time these production delays and problems lead to poor results, but that is not the case with this film. The production has an authentic feel to it being shot on location in Cuba and is a fascinating character study with a take on a legend who was never comfortable in his own celebrity skin.
Overall, I give Papa Hemingway in Cuba 3 out of 4 stars.
Read all my reviews here–>Entertainment Now with T.M. Powell