Trumbo

January 25, 2016 at 11:07 am | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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While watching “Trumbo,” I could not help but continue to be reminded of “Guilty by Suspicion,” the early 90s Robert De Niro film about the Hollywood blacklist. That one created fictional characters to explore the moral implications of that dark period in a rather ham-fisted way. This film, instead, focuses on a real screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, and his real experiences. Following him and his family over 20 years (though primarily in the 1950s), the story explores how he deals with being shut out of Hollywood, how he tries to cope and how it changes him. But this is not a deep psychological drama and Trumbo’s emotional struggles are presented superficially, often being resolved with a few pithy statements. In fact, the most entertaining part of “Trumbo” is how delightfully witty Trumbo could be. His dialogue was at turns clever, biting, insightful and provocative, with everyone else acting as his straight man. As such, most of the other characters felts a bit thin, particularly those closest to him. We are treated to a host of reasonably good impressions of John Wayne, Hedda Hopper, Edward G Robinson, Kirk Douglas, Louis B Mayer and Otto Preminger, among others. But, with the exception of Robinson, none of them have any particular depth. In fact, this film exists for one reason: as a loving tribute to a talent and eccentric man. Trumbo is the film’s entire focus and it rises or falls entirely on his shoulders. Fortunately, those shoulders belong to Bryan Cranston. Between “Malcom in the Middle” and “Breaking Bad,” Cranston has shown his ability to inhabit vastly different characters so completely that it becomes difficult to remember his previous performances. He so thoroughly becomes Trumbo, that it is impossible to see Walter White anymore. The physicality he brings to each role is amazing. His Trumbo sits differently, stands differently, looks differently than any other character he has played. It’s a joy to watch him so thoroughly bring this person to life. I have no idea how like the real Trumbo he was but he felt like a fully realized person. The story itself was at times interesting, funny, clever and, even, moving. However, the only real reason to see this movie is to watch a brilliant actor doing brilliant work. Which, as it turns out, is not a bad reason at all.

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