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Genius DVD + Digital Review

Genius (2016) movie poster Genius

Theatrical Release: June 10, 2016 / Running Time: 104 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Michael Grandage / Writers: A. Scott Berg (book Max Perkins: Editor of Genius), John Logan (screenplay)

Cast: Colin Firth (Maxwell Perkins), Jude Law (Thomas Wolfe), Nicole Kidman (Aline Bernstein), Laura Linney (Louise Perkins), Guy Pearce (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Dominic West (Ernest Hemingway), Vanessa Kirby (Zelda Fitzgerald), Gillian Hanna (Julia Wolfe), Angela Ashton (Bertha Perkins), Eve Bracken (Zippy Perkins), Katya Watson (Jane Perkins), Lorna Doherty (Peggy Perkins), Makenna McBrierty (Nancy Perkins)

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Genius opens in 1929 New York with
easygoing and respected New York editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth) having a giant manuscript dropped on his desk by a colleague. Perkins makes good on his vow to read the tome, which has already been turned down by every other publisher in town. He declares the novel "unique" and agrees to publish it, to the surprise and delight of its author, bombastic southerner Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law).

Thus begins a collaboration and friendship between editor and author, who together approach the massive undertaking of trimming Wolfe's flowery text to a more reasonable length (i.e. hundreds of pages shorter). They do that and earn rave reviews. Before you know it, Wolfe is back with an even longer follow-up book running 5,000 pages in its early draft.

New York editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth) gets on Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) to finish his epic novels.

The painstaking editing process pulls Perkins away from his wife (Laura Linney) and five daughters and Wolfe away from his long-suffering lover and principal backer, theatre designer Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman). Both familial and professional tensions emerge for the two men, whose working future becomes uncertain despite the considerable respect they hold for one another.

Adapted from A. Scott Berg's National Book Award-winning 1978 biography of Perkins, Genius also provides glimpses at two of the editor's most famous literary colleagues: F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce), who's desperately in need of money just a few years after making little from The Great Gatsby; and Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West), who pitches Perkins his idea to return to Spain.

Thomas Wolfe's lover, theatre designer Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman), gets overshadowed by Thomas' book editing process.

Playing like a more factual and less whimsical Midnight in Paris, Genius has no difficulty holding your attention and immersing you in its literary universe. Law is good in a very big performance.
Firth is too in a comparatively small and understated one. The two men are complemented by a fine supporting cast, but do most of the heavy lifting themselves, the relationship of Perkins and Wolfe trumping all others in screentime and importance.

Written for the screen by seasoned vet John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, Hugo, Rango, Skyfall), Genius' lofty depictions are tastefully presented by veteran British actor Michael Grandage, who makes a perfectly competent directorial debut here. Despite the star power and intrigue in the story to fans of American literature, Genius had to settle for a limited theatrical release from Roadshow Attractions, who opened the film in 16 theaters in mid-June and expanded to a peak width of 152 theaters two weeks later.

The film grossed just $1.4 million domestic during that brief engagement, which is evidently small enough for Lionsgate not to have bothered with a North American Blu-ray release. Instead, this character study hits DVD alone (with a standard definition digital copy) on Tuesday.

Genius: DVD + Digital cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.39:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Instant Video


Genius obviously lacks some of the detail and sharpness you expect and usually get from high definition. The DVD's 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation isn't bad for DVD, but you do notice some limitations. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is adequate. English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles accompany the film but not the extras.

Laura Linney is among the cast members lending their thoughts to "Genesis of 'Genius.'" Guy Pearce discusses F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom he plays in a juicy supporting role.


Genius is joined by two medium-sized featurettes on the disc.

"Genesis of Genius" (14:12) is the more general of the two, considering Grandage's direction and the film's central relationship.

"Painting a Portrait of a Lost Generation" (15:13)
looks further at the historical figures who feature among the small cast's principals.

"Also from Lionsgate" repeats the five full trailers that play when the disc is inserted, previewing A Hologram for the King, Mr. Holmes, Indignation, Touched with Fire, and Miss You Already.

The main menu loops a piano score and clip montage. Submenus are static and silent, while selecting items from the main menu produces an awkward transition screen.

An insert supplying your Digital copy with UltraViolet joins the plain gray disc inside the slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase.

A last-minute title change from Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) puts a smile on the face of his editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth).


Though fairly unloved by critics and avoided by the moviegoing public, Genius will hold your interest if you have any interest in the process of writing and editing with its compelling depiction of Thomas Wolfe and his editor's fruitful few collaborations.

The lack of a Blu-ray edition surprises and disappoints, but judged only against its medium, this DVD earns a passing grade and warrants a look, if you can still bring yourself to watch standard definition.

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New to Disc: The Man Who Knew Infinity Money Monster The Jungle Book (2016) A Hologram for the King The Phenom The Nice Guys
Colin Firth: The King's Speech The Railway Man Arthur Newman A Single Man Gambit Magic in the Moonlight
Jude Law: Contagion Hugo The Grand Budapest Hotel Sherlock Holmes Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows eXistenZ
Nicole Kidman: The Family Fang Strangerland Grace of Monaco Secret in Their Eyes Australia Nine | Laura Linney: The Details Tales of the City
Written by John Logan: Rango Coriolanus Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Any Given Sunday
Midnight in Paris The Great Gatsby Bridge of Spies

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Reviewed September 1, 2016.

Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 Summit Entertainment, Riverstone Pictures, Roadside Attractions, Pinewood Pictures, Filmnation Entertainment, Desert Wolf Productions, MGC Productions, and Lionsgate.
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