Movie review: ‘Cooper & Hemingway’ tries too hard, talks too much

Gary Cooper and Ernest Hemingway in "Cooper and Hemingway."
(Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.)

For a documentary extolling the friendship between two icons of minimalist persuasion — soft-spoken movie star Gary Cooper and stripped-bare wordsmith Ernest Hemingway — John Mulholland’s “Cooper & Hemingway: The True Gen” sure does talk a lot. Not to mention repeat itself and traffic in sentimentality. Exhaustive at more than two hours, with rapid-fire narration from Sam Waterston over a cascade of animated graphics, text, photos, archival footage and interviews (with those still alive and long dead), even a die-hard movie lover or literature buff might wish Mulholland had slowed down to a tempered historical amble. There’s an intriguing investigation to be made of the unlikely bond between an easygoing, friendly Hollywood conservative comfortable projecting the image of a strong, silent type, and an intemperate, hard-drinking arts-and-letters liberal who chewed on heroic ideals for a living. Meeting in 1940, years after Cooper starred in an adaptation of Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms,” the two remained close through career-related and personal ups and downs, until their deaths only months apart in 1961. But the overall effect here is of parallel biographies juiced to feel important whenever they intersect, and an undercooked paean to lost masculinity.



“Cooper & Hemingway: The True Gen”

MPAA rating: None


Running time: 2 hours, 13 minutes

Playing: At Laemmle Playhouse 7



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