Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Movie with Abe: Trumbo

Directed by Jay Roach
Released November 6, 2015

Writers in any medium have an interesting and important job: to tell a story. Often, writers draw from their own life experiences to craft a compelling narrative and create a piece of fiction very much based on true events and actual people. In the case of Dalton Trumbo, a famed Hollywood screenwriter in the 1940s, his works were excellent, but not nearly as fascinating as his own life, something which had nothing to do with the content of the screenplays he wrote. In “Trumbo,” the writer is entirely the story.

Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is an animated, charismatic facet of the film industry in 1947, a popular figure with one particularly outspoken trait: he is a proud member of the Communist party. He stands in stark contrast to such Hollywood heavies as actor John Wayne (David James Elliott) and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren), but finds himself in good company with a handful of other players, including actor Edward G. Robinson (Michael Stuhlbarg) and screenwriters Arlen Hird (Louis C.K.) and Ian McLellan Hunter (Alan Tudyk). When the time comes to discredit Communists and force them to name names and be blacklisted, Trumbo is unapologetic, and finds his life transformed in an irreversibly negative way.

What happens after Trumbo serves his time in prison for refusing to name names is when this film truly comes alive. Unimpressed with the way that his industry has handled things, Trumbo begins ghostwriting terrible films and even enlisting a number of his blacklisted colleagues to do the same. Inevitably, Trumbo even gets to write a few top-notch scripts which make their way to award wins for which other people must take credit. The way that Trumbo gets, in a way, back on top, makes this film feel like “Argo,” which also featured Cranston and John Goodman, who here plays the executive churning out dreck, in that it features a preposterous plan to deceive many that couldn’t possibly work but did.

The film has a distinctly lighthearted feel despite a subject matter that did adversely affect a large number of people and families. That seems to be the best way to tackle it, and it serves as a fun and engaging manner in which to share Trumbo’s undeniably interesting story. Cranston inhabits the role of Trumbo with gusto and energy, ably supported by the likes of Mirren, Tudyk, and Goodman in their period parts. C.K., on the other hand, sticks out considerably, one of the few things about the film that dents its pristine appearance. The film has its moments of grandeur and spectacle, and ultimately serves as an enlightening and entertaining exposé about one of Hollywood’s nuttiest times.


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