This Oscar season, PG-13 for Ugly Cast will be flipping a cordial bird to the arbitrary practice of rank-ordering movies. Instead, we will highlight a handful of Movie Things We Loved, with no pretense of objectivity or internal consistency. Deal with it.
You could argue that Ernest Hemingway invented modern American prose. The concision, the clarity, the study nouns and active verbs, Strunk and White, Orwell’s famous essay “Politics and the English Language” – all of it, some say, can be traced back to Hemingway’s unadorned and focused writing.
You could also argue that Ernest Hemingway is hilarious. He wrote long sentences full of short words about rain and war and the things that war does to men and the things that rain does to cats. With good reason, he’s perhaps the most-parodied writer of the last century.
So when Woody Allen chose to depict Hemingway in Midnight in Paris, he had his work cut out for him. Hemingway’s distinctive voice has lived for years inside his readers’ heads. A walking, talking version might deviate too far from our imagination, or ring false like a cheap knock-off. As challenging as it is to adapt novels for the screen, it must be even more daunting to adapt a legendary author himself.
But actor Corey Stoll plays it perfectly. In his clipped monotone, you can hear precisely those tics that made Hemingway so distinctive, so influential, and so easily mimicked. It doesn’t hurt to have the dialogue written by someone with Allen’s literary ear, either. While Adrien Brody’s manic turn as Salvador Dali earned more press, Stoll’s Hemingway – measured, instantly recognizable, and really damn funny – is the highlight of the film.