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11.19.2015

Trumbo

WAY too much ego in this biopic about Dalton Trumbo, the screenwriter among the Hollywood Ten accused and sent to prison for being a member of the Communist Party, who later went on to garner two Academy Awards (Roman Holiday and The Brave One) while blacklisted.

The movie presented the controversial nature of Trumbo's political leanings in such a way that only a narrow minded idiot, uninterested in basic human rights, could be unsympathetic to Trumbo's plight.  Specifically in one scene at the beginning of the movie John Wayne berates Trumbo's Communist affiliations, and Trumbo deals the final blow by telling Wayne that while he was acting in war movies, Trumbo and his 'fellow commies' actually served in the army.

It felt like bunch of Hollywood elites pushing their weight around, screaming their opinions down the ears of the lowly audience.

It was hard to get past this kind of arrogance, particularly surrounding an issue with multiple shades of grey.  This movie might have made SOME attempt at nuance, explaining (if not justifying) the tense threat of nuclear war that created an atmosphere of paranoia towards people with Communist leanings.

Watching Trumbo also felt similar to flipping through People magazine, what with the overwhelming A-list cast, including Diane Lane, Brian Cranston, Louis C.K., John Goodman and Helen Mirren.

Trumbo lived in a pristine house with a pristine wife and pristine children, all of whom constantly donned pristine, seemingly never before worn outfits from the time period.  It felt like like you're watching some characters living in an imaginary land of pastels.  This is one of the benefits of a lower budget or independent movie--it actually has a feeling of reality.

The Diane Lane character, Trumbo's wife Cleo Beth Fincher, really got under my skin.  Way too many idyllic scenes of her baking cakes, playing ping ping with her kids, and photographing her beautiful children in a field with a horse in the background.  And apparently Cleo reacted to husband's prison sentence, the families descent into poverty, vandalism from neighbors, and his work-aholism with nothing more than a hurt or frustrated or stoic expression.  Oh, she also had a boxing bag to release her emotions.

Now I suspect this may just be Lane's personality because she's generally cast in sweet, spineless roles, where her ultimate responsibility is to look pretty.  In only one tiny scene do we see that this woman had some originality and soul, in which she juggles glasses at a fish fry, telling her guests she was raised to entertain.

And the Kirk Douglas character should have been recast.  OMG, the sound of his voice painful to my ears.

Um, beyond all of this I'd say Trumbo tells a very interesting story.  It's fascinating that he wrote so many excellent screenplays while blacklisted and that the Academy would award an Oscar to a totally anonymous person - Trumbo's nom-de-plume.

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