I’m not too sappy of a guy, and that being said it’s pretty hard to make me cry, but the 2016 film Genius managed to do just that. Now, I’m just learning now that critics weren’t fans of this movie, but I really enjoyed it. The film mainly focuses on the complex friendship between renowned book editor. Maxwell Perkins, and writer, Thomas Wolfe.
Now, I should probably give a little bit of context as to the state I was in when I watched this movie. I had the flu, and was drowning my aches, chills, and coughs with NyQuil, so needless to say, I was just barely hanging onto lucidity.
Well, the main scene that really got to me was, at one point Maxwell Perkins invited Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda to a dinner party. During the party Wolfe asks Fitzgerald if Perkins makes him cut out anything from his work (Wolfe had to cut out substantial portions of the two thousand plus page novels he brought to Perkins in the film), to which Fitzgerald answers that he doesn’t have to cut anything, because his work is never as long as Wolfe’s. This results in a blow out where Wolfe says that the only reason Fitzgerald doesn’t write as much as him, is because he can’t, essentially calling him a washout.
Now at this point in Fitzgerald’s life he was struggling to write anything, and his wife had only just recently been released from an institution, so Perkins takes massive umbrage with Wolfe essentially shitting on him as a writer. Perkins takes Wolfe outside and berates him for his behavior, and asks him how many words he wrote that day (five thousand), to which Perkins replies with what I thought was a beautiful devastating line: “Scott wrote maybe a hundred, if today was a good day. He needs to write as much as you do, he fights over every word!”
And it was then, laid up in my sick bed, in the grips of a fever, that I started to well up, because I know how it feels to need to write, to fight over every word. I felt for F. Scott Fitzgerald in that moment, I ached for him, because I couldn’t and can’t t imagine being so talented, but unable to do anything with that talent, and to be criticized so heavily for it.