Writing Passion Behind a Barbarian
In the spring of 1933 school teacher/ aspiring writer Novalyne Price (RenÃ©e Zellweger) is introduced by her beau to Robert E. Howard (Vincent D'Onofrio) a writer of pulp fiction and the creator of "Conan the Barbarian". They immediately feel some sort of connection between them despite being very different and whilst Novalyne falls for the writer the ungainly Robert is unable to love her back in the same way despite sharing plenty of tender moments.
One thing that I have learned from my passion for movies is that even if I have never heard of a movie or the people it is about do not just ignore it as they can be some of the most enlightening and entertaining movies to watch. It is for that reason why I had no qualms about watching "The Whole Wide World" as whilst I knew of "Conan the Barbarian" thanks to the Schwarzenegger movies I had never heard of Robert E. Howard nor for that matter Novalyne Price. And I wasn't disappointed as "The Whole Wide World" is a beautifully crafted and acted character study which comes alive even if you have never heard of Price and Howard.
Now the story could be described as small as it covers just a few years and the friendship which forms between Price and Howard. We see how Novalyne falls for Robert and in return he feels something from her but is unable to reciprocate her love in the same way. As I said it is quite a small movie with a limited storyline but right from the word go it is pretty clear that this is a movie about the people rather than what happens. And director Dan Ireland doesn't try to interfere with this character study, yes he gives us some glorious looking scenes and beautiful tender moments between Novalyne and Robert but it is all about the characters and the connection between them.
Now RenÃ©e Zellweger shows us what she is good at, playing a woman who is strong willed and not afraid of breaking conventions yet at the same time having a vulnerable side, yet vulnerable does not mean weak or overly emotional, just human. And then there are the supporting performances with Ann Wedgeworth delivering a super character study of Robert's protective and controlling mother who is initially not keen on her special son having a woman friend.
But the star of "The Whole Wide World" is Vincent D'Onofrio who creates one of the best characters I have ever seen, a man comfortable in who he is, a big lug of a guy yet with a gentle side but also with an exuberant confidence and plenty of opinion. But what D'Onofrio does is bring to life Howard's creative passion, the excitement he gets from writing Conan which takes control of him as he shouts out the words whilst hammering away at the keyboard, the sound of swords crashing in his ears. It is a full on performance of all consuming passion for writing and it is simply captivating.
What this all boils down to is that "The Whole Wide World" is one of those movies which you might skip because you don't know the people who it is about. But trust me you don't need to know as we have a movie with fascinating characters brought to life in a passionate way that you won't want to take your eyes off of the movie for a second.