'Hemingway & Gellhorn' lacks heart

In this image released by HBO, Nicole Kidman,

In this image released by HBO, Nicole Kidman, left, and Clive Owen are shown in a scene from the HBO film, "Hemingway & Gellhorn." (Credit: AP)

MADE-FOR-CABLE MOVIE "Hemingway & Gellhorn"

WHEN|WHERE Monday at 9 on HBO

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The Spanish Civil war is raging, and far away, in a Key West dive, a would-be journalist meets a world-famous novelist. Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman) and Ernest Hemingway (Clive Owen) meet again months later in Madrid to produce a documentary about the conflict. A famous affair begins. Meanwhile, Hemingway is married to Pauline (Molly Parker), who's still back in Key West, tending to his living legacy like a museum curator. Moving from war zone to war zone, eventually settling -- or festering -- in Cuba, "Hem" and Gellhorn don't last.

MY SAY Directed by Philip Kaufman ("The Right Stuff") along with a pretty terrific supporting cast -- Robert Duvall, Tony Shalhoub, David Strathairn, Rodrigo Santoro, Parker Posey and Diane Baker (playing the older Gellhorn) -- "H&G" would seem to have almost too much going for it. Except ... based on two remarkable protagonists living in remarkable times, the film can never quite rise to the level of making them particularly remarkable.

This is a love story where it's hard to feel the love. In part, this is because they are both literally swallowed up by the film in whole chunks -- chroma-keyed into grainy newsreel footage to establish that they weren't just part of history but had a front seat to it as well. If that weren't distracting enough, Owen and Kidman can't sell this star-crossed love, either. Maybe it's a chemistry misfire or there just wasn't much to sell in the first place.

BOTTOM LINE Stellar production, famous leads. What's missing? Heart.

GRADE B-

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