Picks and Pans Review: The Sun Also Rises
NBC (Sunday, Dec. 9, 9 p.m. ET)
This is Ernest Hemingway's first full novel, set in Paris and Spain after World War I. It is the story of useless people, of women who judge themselves by their men and of men who feel castrated without a war to fight. Dashing Hart (Supergirl) Bochner as Jake Barnes was made impotent in the war and thus cannot make love to his true love, the stunning Jane Seymour as Lady Brett Ashley. Fear not for Brett's sex life, though, for she has plenty of men after her: Robert (Just the Way You Are) Carradine as Robert Cohn, a wimp who boxed at Princeton; Leonard Nimoy as a Russian count who boasts of murdering the Czar's enemies; Andrea (Bolero) Occhipinti as a handsome matador who cries after killing bulls; and so on. There are eccentricities aplenty: the funeral of a Parisian whore Jake once made love to, complete with an honor guard; a New Orleans jazz band and champagne toasts at the grave; a battle scene with a soldier who gets shot in the skull and a comrade who says, "He needs a medic like he needs a hole in the head"; a cemetery scene with an old soldier who says, "Last year's enemies become today's tourists." Most of those oddities are added; in fact, even the dramatic climax involving the count is new. The adaptation is creative—sometimes too much so—but it has its compelling moments; unlike so many lightweight minis, this one gives you something to think about. And there is some simply superb acting from Seymour and Bochner—also from Stephane (Mistral's Daughter) Audran as another prostitute and Zeljko Ivanek as Jake's buddy Bill. There is a problem, though. It's not Carradine's too-nerdy performance or Nimoy's American accent in a role made Russian for TV. It is the story itself, with a message made disturbingly simple: Sex is the root of evil. As retold on TV, The Sun Also Risesuses these characters to present a picture of all manhood—of lusting for the fight—that one can only hope is out of date. When these men cheat death—which they seem to do more often in the mini than in the book—you begin to feel sorry for death. "No one lives their lives all the way out," says Jake, "except bullfighters." Bull. It is an equally unflattering portrait of womanhood, for Brett falls in love only with bravado masquerading as bravery. These people fight for adrenaline, not principle. They are people not worth caring about. A third of the way through the mini, Jake yells at his friend Cohn: "Cut out the prep-school nonsense!" But they don't. (Part Two airs Monday.)
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