What to make of the awkwardly titled “Hemingway’s Garden of Eden”?
That it sounds like a cheesy brothel owned by someone named Hemingway?
That Ernest Hemingway probably had a reason not to publish the starchy, pointedly perverse little novel before he killed himself?
That Mena Suvari could well be the most wooden actress since Megan Fox?
That the film’s wigmaker should be summarily shot?
Directed by John Irvin from a script by James Scott Linville, “Garden of Eden” is a pretentious tale of a writer, David Bourne (Jack Huston), an American expatriate in Paris in the ‘20s who marries an American heiress named Catherine (Suvari). They settle in at a hotel on the French Riviera for their honeymoon, find the locale boring and go searching for somewhere else to drink and have sex between David’s bouts of writing.
They eventually settle at a deserted hotel near Cannes (run by a severely underutilized Carmen Maura). But Catherine is bored when David is writing (and, truth be told, bored BY David’s writing), so she hooks up with an exotic lesbian, then brings her back to David so they can try a little three-way action.
The lesbian, Marita, is played by Caterina Murino, who is a stunner. But she must have a limited-nudity clause in her contract, which is disappointing – unlike the boyish Suvari, who apparently has a mandatory nudity clause in hers. Turnabout would have been fairer play for the audience.
When Irvin isn’t focused on the oh-so-sophisticated banter about how sophisticated and perverse they all are together, he’s jumping into an even duller enactment of a story about Africa that David is writing. It involves a father and son on an elephant hunt and features Matthew Modine, doing his impression of a cardboard cutout. The elephant, however, is nude, though almost as coy about it as Murino.
And the wigs: Suvari wears a couple whose edges clearly show. At one point, both David and Katherine have their hair bleached to a platinum white – after which Huston looks as though he’s wearing an ill-fitting hair hat – or perhaps is doing an impression of the late Andy Warhol, who did wear his white wig as a kind of protective head gear.
Nothing, however, will protect the audience from this dreadful film except to stay far away from the few theaters unwise enough to show it.