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Islands in the Stream Reviews

Scott is the best thing about this touch-and-go film, taken from Hemingway's posthumously published novel of 1970 (his widow, Mary, released the novel, which also was a mistake). The story is basically a rehash of an earlier, better-told, less self-indulgent tale, To Have and Have Not. Scott is a distinguished artist living on Bimini in the Bahamas. He is well-to-do and can afford a retinue of servants and friends to whom he supplies booze, stories, and his radiant personality. He drinks; he fishes; he fantasizes. Hemmings, his drunken sailor pal, and Harris, his black servant, are on hand to make sure he doesn't fall out of the boat. Tyrell is the local good-natured prostitute, and Bloom is Scott's wealthy ex-wife by whom he has one son (a close-shave portrait of Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson). His three sons, the youngest two from another marriage (Hemingway's second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer), come to visit, and they share some joys and pains fishing and talking. Wixted is at war with his father over painful arguments he remembers his parents having years earlier. Bochner, the oldest son, swims out too far one day and is almost eaten by a shark, but rummy Hemmings grabs a machine gun and kills the shark first. Bochner later joins the RAF to fight the Germans (this before the US was in the war); Bloom later visits Scott to tell him that she is remarrying and that their son has been killed in the war. Scott now becomes a man of action, almost as if having nothing more to live for. He rescues a group of Jewish refugees, smuggling them ashore while his boat and crew are shot to pieces by gunboats (national origin not known). He tries to evade capture by setting fire to the inland water channels with gasoline but is mortally wounded and dies, saying at the last, while having hallucinations of Bloom and his sons returning to him, "I now know there is no one thing that is true. It is all true." ISLANDS IN THE STREAM is pretentious, and the only captivating moments are those willed into being by Scott's magnetic personality. But the Hemingway credo of masculine survival by sword and fire rings false in a world that has long discarded such one-dimensional notions. The philosophy, such as it is, is only hopeful that someone, anyone, might come along and fill in its implications with some permanent intellectuality. The reader used to do that for Hemingway when dealing with his oft-times magical words, but it's impossible in film where the unbelievable and the unsaid must somehow find reality and voice. Perhaps the failure of the film is because Islands in the Stream was unfinished when its author put a shotgun to his head. Nevertheless, Koenekamp's screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award.