Saturday, January 27, 2018
Catching up with the Awards Season: THE POST
Spielberg, of course has America's most beloved female actor, Meryll Streep. heading the cast. As Katharine Graham, owner and publisher of the newspaper, she must decide if publishing such a detrimental story to the Nixon presidency, material that has already gotten The New York Times in trouble, is beneficial to a company which is preparing for its IPO. Mrs. Graham travels in powerful circles, a blue-blood Brahmin used to giving parties where defense secretary Robert McNamara, the person most responsible for the escalation of the war, is a welcome guest. But the newspaper business is in her blood. She inherited it from her father, and she took it over from her husband when he committed suicide. She is a powerful woman, the kind we ought to like these days, although she is filled with questions and doubts, as any other human being would be. Ms. Streep ably portrays the dichotomy of the character in her usual brilliant way.
In the lion's den that is the newsroom of the Washington Post, the lead gladiator is Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, executive editor of the newspaper, challenging the federal government at every turn in his quest to publish the top secret documents. (Of course, it was his son, Ben Bradlee, Jr. who led the Boston Globe's expose that is featured in the film Spotlight -- thus somehow linking the two films together). Like Ms. Streep, Mr. Hanks offers us a carefully crafted performance. Ms. Streep is unashamed to expose her Yale trained technique as she approaches her character, but Mr. Hanks is all Hollywood method acting, in a performance that at times tends to be quite subtle. The juxtaposition of acting styles works, and their scenes together makes the film come alive, even when the script by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer seems to fail them.
Mr. Spielberg's direction keeps the action going throughout, but I find that he lingers way too long during the third act. Lately, the man is into providing us with epilogues. (The same problem I found with the conclusion of Bridge of Spies.) Is it really necessary to have Justice Black's opinion read out loud in the newsroom in order to stir our patriotic feelings? And worst of all, is it really necessary to end the film with the Watergate break-in? Is Mr. Spielberg hinting at a possible sequel (or perhaps a 1970s trilogy ending with the disgrace of Richard Nixon)? I would remind Mr. Spielberg's of screenwriter/director Billy Wilder's last screenwriting tip:
"The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then — that's it. Don’t hang around."