Vet British helmer John Irvin’s mannered, bloodless and appallingly thesped filmization of Hemingway’s posthumous novel, though unlikely to set the author rolling in his grave, may still have viewers rolling in the aisles. This semi-autobiographical, Jazz Age account of a young writer’s sexual experiences at the hands of his rich, spoiled, emotionally unstable bride aims for a level of sophistication miles beyond tyro scripter James Scott Linville’s callow reach. Bowing Dec. 10 in Gotham and Los Angeles, “Garden of Eden” sends sleek, half-nude bodies glumly cavorting through lush Riviera landscapes in a paradigm of unintentional camp.
While Jack Huston’s Paris-based scribe merely registers as a bland, none-too-bright pretty boy, Mena Suvari’s stab at impersonating a gender-bending flapper fatale seems downright clueless, her bizarre line readings divorcing already clunky dialogue from any believability. The leads further suffer in comparison with the secondary players: Caterina Murino smolders as the bisexual beauty brought in to form a “perverse” menage a trois; Richard E. Grant infuses the expat community with a welcome whiff of depravity; and Carmen Maura singlehandedly evokes an entire coastline of sensible, stalwart natives. Even Matthew Modine’s great white hunter in a film-within-the-film escapes ridicule.