Martin Eden movie review & film summary (2020)

Elena’s meeting with Martin is far from a Meet Cute. He saves her brother, Arturo (Giustiniano Alpi) from a beating on the docks and, as thanks, is invited to dinner. It’s there where he discovers Baudelaire has a fan in Elena and sparks fly. The other members of the Orsini clan, while thankful for him saving Arturo, can’t wait for him to leave. Alas, Elena finds him endearing, so they sort of have to put up with him for the time being. Thankfully for the Orsinis, Martin decides to better himself while on his next voyage. He devours everything he can read, and is bitten by the writing bug that he hopes will bring him success while also highlighting the plight of his class.

Behind that aforementioned typewriter, Martin churns out piece after piece, all of it extremely angry and so raw in its fury that it keeps getting rejected by every outlet he solicits. In most movies, there’s that shot of the stack of “past due” bills that someone adds yet another envelope to; here it’s a stack of Martin’s own envelopes being marked “Return to Sender” by uninterested publishers. It’s telling that the most romantic moment in “Martin Eden,” the one genuine moment of emotion that works, is when Martin’s first success letter comes in the mail. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but the moment made me swoon with understanding.

The rest of me was far from impressed with “Martin Eden.” It’s a slog at over two hours, much of it spent with Marinelli screaming or acting coarse. Once he has enough success to help fund his causes, he still remains preternaturally disillusioned to the point where we can’t take him seriously. It’s like being privy to someone hate-watching life. Marinelli, who is in almost every scene, makes an admirable attempt at keeping us involved, but we already know what’s going to happen 20 minutes before the film shows us. So, we’re left impatiently drumming our fingers while Martin attempts to strangle his dying provocateur of a mentor, Russ Brissenden (Carlo Cecchi) before bearing witness to yet another one of Martin’s endless verbal rages against the machine. It all ends where you’d expect, especially if you were paying attention to that sinking ship.

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