Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 1977. Paramount Pictures, Zeeuwse Maatschappij N.V.. Screenplay by Denne Part Petitclerc, based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway. Cinematography by Fred J. Koenekamp. Produced by Peter Bart, Max Palevsky. Music by Jerry Goldsmith. Production Design by William J. Creber. Film Editing by Robert Swink. Academy Awards 1977.
Ernest Hemingway’s posthumously published final novel is the basis of this lukewarm drama that also reunites the director and star of the Oscar winning Patton. George C. Scott is terrific as the gruff patriarch (a barely concealed approximation of the author’s own personality) whose glorious solitude on a gorgeous Caribbean island is happily interrupted by a summer visit from his three sons. Eldest son Tom (Hart Bochner) loves his dad despite his flaws, littlest brother Andrew is too young to do anything other than approve, while middle sibling David has a great deal of resentment for the man who was rough with his mother before leaving her. A sequence involving catching a swordfish for injury-inducing hours is ripe with the kind of symbolism that Hemingway did so shamelessly (and so well), and is the highlight of a film that is at its best when focusing on the relationship between the man and his boys. The next chapter, in which ex-wife Claire Bloom comes for a visit, is greatly helped by the great chemistry she has with Scott; the concluding scenes, however, in which Scott and best friends David Hemmings and Julius Harris take to war-infested waters and head north to America, is a pale adventure that feels incongruous with the scenes that preceded it. Fred Koenekamp’s beautifully colourful cinematography is truly dazzling, but also contributes to the confusion of a film that seems to want to be a serious drama but is filmed to look like South Pacific and Mister Roberts combined.