THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD
The film is a romance about two mismatched outsiders an introverted, socially maladjusted writer with both bizarre and progressive ideas who dreams of being a larger-than-life masculine hero, and a timid but cautiously free-thinking teacher who ultimately sides with tradition and conservatism. Renee Zellweger, who made The Whole Wide World just before she had a big breakthrough success with Jerry Maguire (1996), gives a nicely spirited performance as Novalyne Price. Vincent DOnofrio certainly looks like the real Robert E. Howard. He overacts the part somewhat, although this eventually turns out to be a performance that sits well with the film.
Certainly, the film has read its Robert E. Howard and quotes passages direct from a number of Conan stories. Director Dan Ireland is determined to get inside Howards imagination, placing the camera in front of Vincent DOnofrio as though it were an opponent as DOnofrio dances down the street enacting a mock fight, or the soundtrack filling with the clash of metal as DOnofrio becomes embroiled in describing a swordfight. There is one absolutely gorgeous shot where Howard talks about his Western and yells Boom! Boom! Boom! and the camera pulls back to frame him against the bare, wide-open Texas sky just like the hero on the cover of a pulp novel.
What becomes apparent is that The Whole Wide World was made more by people who were enamoured by Novalyne Prices autobiography than people that were Robert E. Howard fans. Although The Whole Wide World is a Robert E. Howard biopic, it is hardly the type of film designed to draw in Conan fans. It has a romantic, nostalgic tone so much so that it even leaves Howards death by self-inflicted gunshot wound to occur offscreen which is almost 180 degrees from the primal red-bloodedness of Howartds uber-macho fantasies of brawn and strength. The film ultimately comes down on the side of timidity and respectability rather than daydreaming and primal freedom. However, it does reveal a certain truth about Robert E. Howard and his creations that Howard was introverted and socially maladjusted and that his fantasies were ultimately daydreams of a person who wished he could be stronger and more fearless than he ever was in real life.
Other films adapted from Robert E. Howards work are: Conan the Barbarian (1982), Conan the Destroyer (1984), Red Sonja (1985), Kull the Conqueror (1997), the tv series Conan (1998), Solomon Kane (2009) and Conan the Barbarian (2011).