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121 of 124 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2001
After retiring from teaching, lifelong aspiring writer Novalyne Price wrote her first book at age 76, "One Who Walked Alone," a memoir dedicated to the memory of pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard, and upon which this film, "The Whole Wide World," directed by Dan Ireland, is based. The film paints a soul wrenching portrait of a man who was larger than life in the world of his own creation, but who was a socially inept, self-proclaimed "lummox" in the real world, who had an unhealthy devotion to his sickly mother and had trouble expressing his true feelings to the woman he obviously loved. To Novalyne Price-- as well as his legions of devoted readers-- Howard was the greatest pulp writer in the whole wide world. But to him, living in a small town in Texas in the `30s, that world was populated by "maggots of corruption," and was a dangerous place filled with outlaws, thieves and robbers. He masked his true poetic nature with an outwardly gregarious manner and bravura, which, along with his self-imposed exile from society made his on-again-off-again relationship with Price nearly insurmountable. To the world, he gave Conan the Barbarian and some of the greatest action adventures ever written; to Novalyne he gave the sunrise, the sunset and the moon, but was incapable of giving himself, telling her, "The road I walk, I walk alone." Not that it was what he wanted, but it was all he knew how to do in the "real" world, which he sadly never learned to negotiate.
Working from a sensitive, extremely well written screenplay by Michael Scott Myers, Ireland compassionately explores Howard's world through the eyes of Novalyne Price. What we see is an enigmatic, lonely man struggling with the demons of his soul, who escapes to the worlds of his fantasies in order to cope with life. He is most comfortable talking about his work, and the lands of his imagination. When relating one of his "yarns, as he called his stories, he is on his feet, swelling his chest and becoming Conan, sword in hand, battling beasts and enemies and rescuing scantily clad women from harm. He is transported by his own characters, and watching, the audience is taken along with him, swept away by the passion in his eyes and the sounds of clanking swords. When he writes, he speaks his words aloud, passionately losing himself in the story even as he is creating it. And these scenes, backed by the captivating score by Hans Zimmer and Harry Gregson-Williams, are especially powerful and emotionally riveting, which underscores the action and heightens the emotional level and the viewers involvement with the characters and the story. Ireland juxtaposes the intimacy of the story with some stunning visuals and superb cinematography that will keep Howard and Price in your memory long after the film has ended. It's terrific work by Ireland, and deserving of the highest acclaim.
In a criminally unacclaimed and overlooked performance, Vincent D'Onofrio is absolutely astounding in the role of Bob Howard. The work he does here can stand alongside the best performances of the greatest actors. In this film, he IS Howard, physically and emotionally, from the inside out. He captures every emotion, vividly, with nuance and to perfection; the repressed feelings, the constant, inner turmoil of the man who had confidence in the one thing he knew how to do-- write-- but who also recognized that he was a misfit who lacked even the basic, everyday skills of survival. It's a painful portrait of a tortured individual to whom one can relate and empathize because of D'Onofrio's consummate skill as an actor. It's simply a staggeringly powerful and memorable performance.
Renee Zellweger gives an excellent performance, as well, as Novalyne Price, this somewhat progressive, though rather straight-laced young woman frustrated time and again in her attempts to break through the complexities of this man to whom she is ready to devote her life. It's an endearing portrait of a strong, yet vulnerable woman willing to forego many of the conventions of the times for the man she loves, if only he would meet her halfway. She creates a character with whom you can readily sympathize and identify, making Novalyne very real and her relationship with Howard believable. It's a beautiful piece of work, for which-- like D'Onofrio-- she did not receive the attention she deserved.
The supporting cast includes Ann Wedgeworth (Mrs. Howard), Harve Presnell (Dr. Howard), Benjamin Mouton (Clyde), Michael Corbett (Booth), Helen Cates (Enid), Leslie Berger (Ethel) and Chris Shearer (Truett). There's life as we'd like it to be, and life as it really is, and "The Whole Wide World" is a masterfully presented character study that succinctly examines that situation. It's an insightful and emotionally gripping film that explores human nature and the often incomprehensible workings of the mind that compel individuals to do what they must do. In the end, it's a film that will touch you in many ways, and will linger in your thoughts for more than just a little while.
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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2002
This film should be used as example of independent filmmaking at its finest. Made on a shoestring budget with then unknown actors, director Dan Ireland creates a film that is by turns sweeping, intimate, funny and tragic. He takes the viewers into 1930s smalltown Texas and makes you feel like you are there -- you can see how he trusts his actors to portray their characters, and they in turn don't disappoint
Vincent D'Onofrio and Renee Zellweger both give unique and memorable performances in this haunting love story. One never feels that they are "acting", even for a minute. One senses the tragedy in the relationship between pulp fiction writer Bob Howard and teacher Novalyne Price, but also the sweetness that led her to write the memoir on which this film was based, many years later.
View this film, it will not disappoint. I think it is one of the top ten films I've ever seen. It's a crime that it was not more widely released, or recognized by the Academy Awards. Both actors were deserving of Best Actor/Actress recognition for their work, but I guess small non-moneymaking films don't stand much of a chance in that arena! In my book, Vincent D'Onofrio bested the Best Actor award for that year, Nicholas Cage, by several degrees. This film introduced me to his work, and he is an actor who never fails to give a memorable performance, no matter how small or offbeat the part.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2000
Never has a film made such an impact on my life as did the Whole Wide World. The film's message to me was that one should not waste their natural artistic abilities. After watching an insecure character like Robert E. Howard shrivel under the pressure of his life, I realized that a true mark of success is the ability to overcome the pressures and obligations that stand in the way.
The creative talent responsible for the film is something that should not be overlooked. The breathtaking film is adapted from the Price-Ellis memoir The One Who Walked Alone. Price-Ellis wanted nothing more throughout her entire life than to write a novel. Her god-given talent of teaching kept her from fulfilling her dream until she was in her 70's. The book hasn't made it to national best-seller lists, but how often does a truly worthy book make it anyway?
The director Dan Ireland researched the story thoroughly before bringing it to film. His compassion exhibited towards the elderly author was very commendable. It is my opinion that he truly wanted to represent the story in its exact and incredible form. Keep an eye out for his fantastic work in the future. He is currently working on another period love story called The Beauty of Jane. Also on video is the Velocity of Gary.
The acting in The Whole Wide World is so awesome it is frightening, almost as if they left their bodies during the filming process. D'Onofrio is in a class by himself and Zellweger should have never moved on to films like Me, Myself and Irene. They are so far below her talent level it is tragic.
The film is among my top ten of all time. I have shamelessly promoted it through my business and circle of friends. How many times can you watch a video before it starts to fall apart?
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2006
Other Amazon reviewers have done a great job of laying out the plot and the best features of "The Whole Wide World", so I just want to add my two cents worth. I really love this movie. It is such a touching story of two people who were in love but not able to be together. Vincent D'Onofrio breaks my heart every time I watch him in this movie. His character wants so badly to connect with Novalyn but he just can't. I cry every time!

I can't imagine that anyone would be disappointed after watching this film. It is beautifully written and filmed, and the sweetness and sadness really stays with you. Oh, and the front yard kiss between Robert and Novalyn - best screen kiss ever! I highly recommend "The Whole Wide World".
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2006
Funny that someone would produce a "chick flick" based on the relationship of Novalyne Price to author Robert E. Howard, creator of the sci-fi/fantasy character Conan. No doubt someone in Hollywood thought the irony of filming a romantic character study of the man who wrote the classic male-oriented action-thriller stories of the 1930s would be a good way to attract an unlikely mix of female romance fans and fans of the Conan books and comics.

Well the ploy worked, as I got my husband (severely allergic to chick flicks) to sit down and watch this one with me. "You probably won't like this," I said, "but it does show two creative people, one of them is the guy [Robert E. Howard] who wrote the Conan books."

Vincent D'Onofrio plays Robert E. Howard, a man who simultaneously looks sympathetic and psychopathic (his portrayal of Private Pyle in "Full Metal Jacket" is one of film history's creepiest moments). That he actually resembles Howard as a bonus.

Timeless beauty Rene Zellweger plays the intelligent Price, a local Texas school teacher who becomes romantically interested in Howard, a recluse that types his stories with extreme intensity in the privacy of his home while taking care of an ailing


My favorite scene is the one where where Renee's character is demonstrating how much she appreciates language in its ability to describe the scenery around them. Robert E. Howard's response boils down to, "That's great, but what the hell happens?" and he begins imagining an exciting adolescent heroic fantasy intruding into her peaceful meadow. The scene almost makes you feel guilty for realizing that there are real reasons why Conan and other pulp fiction characters endure and outsell all but the very best of the more respectable stuff. The film, as my brother (another Howard fan, who named his dog after Conan) notes, also didn't shy away from the fact that most of the best pulp work was based on insecure power trips written by and for arrested adolescents with real issues.

Here is the difficulty Howard fans, such as my husband, who has written reams of what he has written, will have with the film. The story is told from his girlfriend Novalyn's perspective so a very important aspect of Howard's life, the specifics and depth of his stories, is largely skimmed over. The film sums up Howard's work by showing Price in a witty scene comparing her breast size with the bosoms of Howard's characters, and by showing the shock of people as he describes or acts out his work in public. There is some attempt at showing his desire to create the deeper more assertive female character Valeria in "Red Nails" but it is only a passing mention in conversation.

Howard is depicted as resting on the edge of insanity at times, which is believable considering his tragic end. He doesn't just write, he becomes his characters.

Price, an aspiring writer herself, hopes to learn from Howard but is put off by his erratic behavior and a more romantic interest in him that wishes he'd write nicer stories with more pleasant sympathetic characters. This void between them prevents the viewers ... or should I say Howard fans from knowing which stories he was working on at what time in the plot.

"The Devil in Iron" is the only one mentioned by name and others are hinted at including a boxing story, "Queen of the Black Coast," and his last masterpiece "Red Nails," which many fans regard as his finest story (or yarn as Robert calls them in the film). As my husband has read all of his books and many different comic adaptations he was able to pick out some of the works from his ramblings behind the typewriter, but his work is treated as a distracting sideshow by the film, in spite of the Price character's attempts to be non-judgmental and open-minded about his topics. The real story of the film is a battle between Price and Howard's mother for his attention.

This may be an accurate dramatization of Price's feelings but to a Howard fan its a little bit like treating Michaelangelo's David or the Sistine Chapel as incidental in the story of his life.

A talented artist will live their work, become their characters, the events will be in their heads almost as if it is reality. The work is hardly incidental, it is their life. The film dramatizes this but omits the actual stories.

To sum it up, "The Whole Wide World" is an engaging romance that will keep the attention of both men and women watching at home, but in the end may disappoint Howard fans (but not too much). My husband has stacked five of his Conan paperbacks by my desk for me to read, all as a result of making him watch this DVD with me.

By the way, if you are wondering about the title, it's based on Howard shouting to Novalyn that he wants to be the best writer "in the whole wide world."
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2006
Have you ever seen shows about people who go to a garage sale and find something they like that may be something perhaps not worth much, but they bought it because they liked it? Then they come to find out that it wasn't junk, in fact it's worth a lot of money.

Watching The Whole Wide World for the first time was exactly that. It didn't look like much, but we gave it a shot. We took it home. To find out, not that it was worth a lot in money, but worth a lot in our hearts. My husband and I sat to watch this movie together. When it finished we knew how much we were moved. It's not this lovey dovey sappy love story, but rather a real life story of love. It has all of its twists and turns. It has all of its share of heart break. But that is love. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The movie was not one we ever heard about played in the movie theatre. We know the actors now. It's a movie made on low budget. It's story and the way it's portrayed is beautiful. Just to prove that a good movie or a good story don't require millions of dollars.

Robert E. Howard was an intelligent man and a creative man. You would have to be creative to write Conan, but he was plagued as many artists can be. The acting to portray his inner struggle I felt was done brilliantly. It was not overly acted, it was done just enough to get the point across. Novalyne Price was perhaps what is considered a feminist this day in age, but she was more than that. She was strong. And she finally fulfilled her dream of writing by telling her story with Bob.

I am moved beyond words at this story. To the person, the only person, to write a bad review here on Amazon, I say, you obviously wanted Hollywood and all it's glory to tell the story. You needed more entertainment, perhaps you'd better stick to reading the works of Robert E. Howard only because this movie was not meant for you. For the rest of us who have been lucky to have seen it and enjoy it, we did because it touched our hearts and souls.

Off to read the book now One Who Walked Alone by Novalyne Price.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2003
Usually I treat "love stories" with a thinly veiled contempt. Call me cynical, but most are contrived, sappy, and predictable. The Whole Wide World is anything but, and like most stories that break your heart, it's a true one - not something created by the overactive imagination of a Hollywood exec.
Other reviews have covered the basic story: based on the memoirs of Novalyne Price, The Whole Wide World is her recollection of the relationship she had with Conan creator and pulp fiction writer, Robert E. Howard, before his tragic suicide.
The performances in this film are outstanding. Vincent D'Onofrio practically leaps off of the screen. His character is infuriating, heartbreaking, yet so fragile. Renee Zellweger filmed this movie just before she got the call to appear in Jerry Macguire, and she shines as Novalyne Price. Price was a smart, witty, and stubborn lady - in a time when such things were not considered very ladylike. Novalyne and Robert were introduced by a mutual acquaintance, and thus began their disjointed and devoted friendship.
There was obviously so much love between them, but circumstances, Howard's mental illness, and his unreasonable devotion to his mother prevented their relationship from ever reaching it's potential. It's a tragic, very real human story and more than worth two hours of your time. Just make sure you have a tissue ready because it is a tear jerker. It never lowers itself to petty sentimentality though. The Whole Wide World will touch you via pure emotional storytelling - kudos to the writer who adapted Price's novel.
It's criminal that the DVD and video are not available in the United States! Various cable channels are playing it regularly, yet I can't come to the American to purchase it?? Please follow the director, Dan Ireland, and his advice - go to and treat yourself to this wonderful love story!
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2003
Stumbled on this heartwarming gem of a movie by accident and was pleasantly surprised. A simple yet moving tale of true love.
Based on the memoirs of Novalyn Price, veers around her relationship with the creator of "Conan The Barbarian" and "Kull The COnqueror", Bob Howard, who committed suicide. The period is 1930s, location: small-town Texas. Novalyne is a school teacher who wishes to be a published writer, and Howard is already established as a pulp fiction maverick. Both are in their late 20's.
As such, you'd think that's a weak scaffolding to lay a spectacular movie on, but the story tiptoes at a very good pace. The script is honest and addictive, and the chemistry between the two protags has that elusive, seductive charm of lovers without being overly somatic.
If you think you have seen Zellweger's true class as an actress from Bridget Jones or One True Thing, you haven't seen nothin' yet! The lady is marvellous. D'Onofrio does a fabulous job of being the creative mess of a story writer.
What I relished most, apart from the beautiful potrayal of love, was an unspoken grief of being an outlier in society -- the kind of palpable but overt ostracism that "geniuses" face simply by virtue of being extraordinary.
Required viewing for the romantics, and some delectable worthy escapism for others.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2006
I have been awestruck by this impeccable portrayal of love. The imagery, language, direction, and acting in this movie is flawless. This movie contains a raw, pure, and uncompromised glimpse into the inner workings of an imaginative and tumultuous relationship. This movie depicts the vulnerability of two human beings and forces the viewer to become emotionally involved in their lives. It must be mentioned that 'The Whole Wide World' contains one of the best on-screen kisses of all time (who could go wrong with gifted character actor Vincent D'Onofrio?). This is a must see for anyone who appreciates a great(and true)love chronicle and movie genius.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2002
what a great film. the script is beautiful and the scenery breathtaking, but the real triumph is the performance put forth by the movie's cast. renee zellweger and vincent d'onofrio progress through the relationship between aspiring writer novalyn price and pulp fiction sensation robert e. howard with grace and energy.
in a small texas town during the 1930s, novalyn price makes her living as a schoolteacher, but dreams of being a writer. an ex-boyfriend introduces her to quirky bob howard, who makes his living by writing sensual adventure tales about conan the barbarian, among others. this is a love story tinged with madness, and at times you can feel the exhaustion induced by howard's intensity.
this film has some great original moments. specifically, look out for the greatest kiss scene of all time. i had to rewind the video and rewatch, stunned that no other director or actor had conceived of this scene before.
i saw this movie because i'm a huge vincent d'onofrio fan, and fell in love with the movie. if you see this movie and fall in love with vincent, check out Household Saints, another great independent film (with lili taylor and tracey ullman).
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