Long ago, a bloke named Alfie wowed international film audiences. Alfie tells the story of a young womanizing cad who leads a self-centered life, purely for his own pleasures, and answering to no one. But circumstances, or events, make him take stock of his situation, so he begins to question his uncaring attitude and notice his loneliness. As part of his daily routine, he cheats on numerous women, and despite his natural charms which women found irresistible, he treats them with disrespect using them for mostly for sex and infrequently for domestic purposes. This was 1966, and Alfie was a huge hit with Michael Caine who played Alfie receiving an Oscar Nomination for Best Actor.
Fast forward to 2013 and Fox Searchlight Films opens Dom Hemingway at the Toronto Film Festival last September. In 2014, the film played at SXSW (South By Southwest) in Austin Texas before coming to Sarasota.
Dom Hemingway is a British black comedy/crime drama. Starring Jude Law as Dom Hemingway. He is a modern version of Alfie – only cruder, ruder, and lewder. And without any of the charm as well. Or you could say that Dom Hemingway is the British version of The Wolf of Wall Street – only without Wall Street.
As the Film opens Hemingway is performing a topless soliloquy about his cock, which was – in Dom’s words – a tireless soldier always at the ready, a gift to the ladies as valuable as a Renoir painting, and if there had been a Nobel Peace Prize for such things, his stalwart champion would run away with the prize. As the camera pulls back, we realize that while Dom was paying verbal homage to his appendage, some one else was paying oral homage. The scene concluded with Dom completing the act – only with out the explosion of lava that he had just told us about. All off-screen of course.
Post opening credits, Dom is about to be granted his freedom after spending the last dozen years of his life in a British jail. He’s missed his own divorce, his wife’s death, his daughter’s growth into adulthood, and his payday for the bank heist that he kept his trap shut about for the double six stretch.
Dom is a tough guy, a hooligan actually, with as foul a mouth on him as you’ve ever seen. This is not the Jude Law who played Dr. Watson in the Holmes films, nor is he the Dr. Jonathan Banks from Side Effects. In fact, Dom is more objectionable and more obnoxious than any film character in recent memory. It’s hard to like the character – but… yet, with Law working as hard as possible, he breathes life into this loathsome person.
It is as if Law unleashed his inner Cockney. Actually Law is from Lewisham, a South London neighborhood which is not really London’s East End, home of the true Cockneys. He’s foul-mouthed, and beats up a guy who lived with his ex-wife, trots around naked in the woods in the South of France, and he never met any one he couldn’t and wouldn’t insult, and I mean grossly insult, with in moments after meeting.
Okay, as I mentioned, Dom and his bbf and mate, Dickie Black, played by Richard Grant
who comes off as a younger Christopher Walken, head down to St. Tropez in the south of France to meet Mr. Fontaine played by Demian Bichir,
who Dom had kept silent about, and did the time rather than rat his partner out. Dom is in line for a big payday. Now Fontaine is a reasonable guy, and recognizes that Dom did him a big favor, and so he owes Dom big-time.
But Dom can’t keep his trap under controls. He tells, sorry – make that screams to Fontaine that he wants everything that is owed to him PLUS interest PLUS a present. Dom makes it known to everyone on-screen and in the audience as well, that he has designs on Fontaine’s girl friend Paolina played by Madalina Ghenea (above and below).
Well Dom gets his payday but not Paolina. But soon his luck changes. Dom had been bingeing on blow (coke), blow jobs, and boozing since his release. But an auto accident changes everything, and that’s about the first half of the film.
In Act Two Dom struggles to regain his footing, and his daughter, and his money.
There’s self-respect waiting in the wings as well – but we aren’t sure that Dom notices.
Basically the second half is a bit too maudlin, including Dom weeping at the graveside of his ex-wife, his daughter has married into a Senegalese family, and Dom is facing an emasculation if he can’t crack a safe in under ten minutes. The question is will Dom’s magic fingers get the job done or not.
Despite giving Dom the majority of the lines in the film, which Jude Law easily runs off with famously – the film’s structure is a bit too episodic. And Dom’s ability as a safe cracker, and a father are too easily patched up.
The film has its share of laugh-out-loud moments. But it is hard to like a character who drops his H’s, swallows his G’s, and tosses in F-bombs with alarming regularity. Dom may be a stand up guy, but calling him a stand up pig, is way more apt, and there’s no getting away from it.
So while Alfie found his way 48 years ago, our Dom Hemingway crashes and blunders his way through everything that is in front of him. He apparently comes to his senses as the end credits roll, but no one in the house is going to give him an atta boy, or a pat on the back, or buy him a beer.
Written and directed by Richard Shepherd, much of the bombast and verbal lava flowing from Dom’s mouth is indeed funny, and outrageous. Here’s a sample:
Dom Hemingway: Oh. I’ll tell you who I am. I’m the fucker who’ll tear your nose off with my teeth. I’m the fucker who will gut you with a dull cheese knife and sing Gilbert and Sullivan while I do it. I’m the fucker who’ll dump your dead body in a freezing cold lake and watch you sink to the bottom like so much shit. I am that fucker. That’s the fucker who I am.
Dom Hemingway: Fontaine better have a well-stocked bar.
Dickie Black: He was raised in a Russian orphanage and kills people for a living. Of course he has a well-stocked bar.
Even though his character Dom Hemingway repulses one and all, Law delivers. But Shepherd’s script loses it narrative way in the second half.
Three point five is my rating. The film had a limited opening in select LA and New York theaters this past Wednesday, April 2nd, and will open in a few more than two dozen theaters across the US next weekend (April 11th). If you like Jude Law, who put on some weight for this role, then accept my recommendation – but bring your hip-waders because you’ll need them.
There’s an interesting featurette about the film on the Fox Searchlight website. Have a look.