The Post (2017)
For the pedigree behind The Post, Spielberg and Streep and Hanks and every person they’ve ever met (I have a theory he yelled the plot at an awards show and collected names to join the cast, as such valuable actors as Carrie Coon and especially Sarah Paulson were hardly utilized), the journalism/feminism drama was underwhelming. Featuring the story that precedes All the President’s Men’s part of the Nixon debacle, we find The New York Times and The Washington Post entangled in treasonous areas when they choose to publish confidential government documents related to the decades of lies surrounding the Vietnam War. Impassioned by the senselessness of soldiers fighting an unwinnable war, WP publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) and hardass editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) determine if risking the paper is worth upholding the first amendment and the rights of the people to know their sons are dying in futility.
Timely, involving both the attacks on traditional new sources and the inequity between the genders in the workplace, the film is gaining strong support for its important subject matter, similar to The Big Short a few years back. Much like the former, there’s a general disconnect between the quality of the film and the impact it can present. The film is hardly bad, just like The Big Short, but it is not a solid piece. The first half is slow to develop, and felt like a mix between Lincoln and Spotlight, but not in a good way. It felt forced and unoriginal–bantering co-workers in period garb, handling the situation with the utmost sincerity–but not just because Janusz Kaminski and Spielberg pairing with one of the Spotlight writers Josh Singer (co-written with newcomer Liz Hannah). It eventually developed its own rhythm, eventually being inspiring, if not inspired.
Kay’s combatants gave Meryl ample opportunity to be quietly ferocious, one of her best features. She’s stammering under the overbearing male forces telling her how terrible her leadership is, but when she finally takes off, she’s terrifying in a hushed manner. Telling off a board member and room full of stuffy dudes, she goes from sitting to lording over the gaggle, in triumphant, goosebump bringing manner. Her 21st Oscar nomination is very, very likely. Tom Hanks in his best role since Captain Phillips is still a touch inconsistent, mostly accent-wise. At times he’s powerful, at times he’s obnoxiously stern, at times he’s heartbreaking (That Kennedy assassination speech made me a bit misty), but it’s good to see him back in the comfortable arms of his lover Steven Spielberg. Where a good chunk of the cast is wasted on tiny parts, Bob Odenkirk stands high in a high-strung journalist role as he gets swept into the mania surrounding the Pentagon Papers. Trying to dial a phone, he is a ball of panic, and his excitement and terror mix splendidly together. Think Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight, but less forced and out of place for the movie. Bonus points to Michael Stuhlbarg, MVP 2017, for making the most out of the
Likely to make a good showing at the Oscars despite some critical precursor misses and general unimpressiveness. The film spreads wide tomorrow, so we will see if the general population is onboard with the comparison to modern America. Trump, et. al., are making damn sure that the media is discredited at every turn, and the blatant sexism hasn’t gotten a hell of a lot better. Not quite the milestone it promises, The Post is one of the best timed films in Spielberg’s extensive career.
Find it….pretty much everywhere tomorrow.