While writers always take credits for their words, editors, who do a lot of work to get those words published, always try to hide. Genius tells of the relationship between Maxwell Perkins, an editor who worked with some of the most influential writers in American literature, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law).
Played by Colin Firth, Perkins is portrayed as a quiet, patient but strict individual. Wolfe shows up at his office unannounced, bearing a massive manuscript that has been rejected by several editors who can’t face trawling through his thousands of pages. Wolfe, on the other hand, is everything Perkins is not: loud, expressive, and dismissive of rules.
While it may be representative of the real Wolfe, Law’s loudness and exaggerated movements come across as overacting. Given that he is on screen for much of the film’s 104 minutes, this starts to get irritating.
The strength of the film is the father-son relationship that develops between Perkins and Wolfe. Perkins is patient enough to read the whole early draft of Of Time and the River, a 5,000-page tome, of which 80 pages are spent describing a man standing on a train platform.
While the official word is that the movie title describes Perkins, it’s hard to tell given how much of the story focuses on Wolfe.