Saturday, November 28, 2015


Happy Thanksgiving! I opted to stay in Massachusetts this year, what with everybody else in my family having in-laws to visit and my not necessarily loving spending a chunk of every holiday on the bus. Not a bad day to treat a holiday as a weekend day, though, as the Brattle had two all-time Humphrey Bogart greats and I still had time to take the 66 to the Coolidge for this. It was apparently Trumbo's last night with shows on the big screens, and since it was technically a weeknight, being an auteur-level member gets you in free. Win-win.

Well, other than there not being many places open to get something to eat.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 26 November 2015 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (first-run, DCP)

Trumbo has what is really a distractingly good cast in more ways than one, especially for those who love movies and as a result have a sharp eye for those involved. Right away, you've got to decide whether you accept Michael Stuhlbarg as Edward G. Robinson (it's kind of hard at first); later on, even small roles seem to have noted character actors like Stephen Root in them. The result is a bunch of people who don't quite disappear into their roles no matter which way you look at it, although it's also two hours of talented people doing things that are worth watching.

Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), for those who may not know, was a war correspondent, novelist, and screenwriter, and also a prominent liberal who would not cross picket lines when Hollywood was a much more conservative town. Indeed, he was a member of the American Communist Party from before the Cold War poisoned any association with even its best ideals. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, both Congressmen looking to make a name like J. Parnell Thomas (James DuMont) and Hollywood insiders like John Wayne (David James Elliott) and Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) started demonizing him and others in a similar situation, resulting not just in contempt of Congress citations (and prison sentences), but a blacklist that kept them from working in any official capacity, though Trumbo would eventually find a patron in Frank King (John Goodman) who would pay, albeit poorly, to have talented writers work on B-movie scripts under assumed names - at least until Kirk Douglas thought of Trumbo for a movie he was producing and starring in, Spartacus.

The creative team behind this movie is an interesting one: Director Jay Roach has mostly done zany comedies (the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents movies) in theaters but has also done a few TV-movies with this sort of real-life political slant of late, while writer/producer John McNamara has spent most of his career doing television work that has generally been quite good but never hooked audiences enough to get a second season or shook things up enough to make him influential; it's easy to see both wanting to create something that makes more of an impression than being capable but anonymous. They are who they are, though, and that's not necessarily a bad thing - though I suspect that one would be hard-pressed to pick out a memorable moment that is not comes from the filmmakers rather than what are presumably Trumbo's words (by way of Bruce Cook's biography), they tell the story with clarity, finding a good balance between having Serious Things To Say and being entertaining.

Full review on EFC.

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