Saturday, 14 November 2015 00:00

Trumbo Featured

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Movie Review by Vincent Centonze

Trumbo, the new film by director Jay Roach, stars Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo, a Hollywood screenwriter who was jailed by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1950 for refusing to answer questions related to his involvement in the Communist Party and was then blacklisted by Hollywood following his release.

Trumbo shows the perseverance of those individuals whose first amendment rights were trampled upon during the Red Scare and Cold War paranoia that swept the nation in the years following World War II. Trumbo and a group of writers, directors, and producers, known as "the Hollywood Ten," were at the spearhead of Congress' attempt to weed out Soviet sympathizers whom they felt were disseminating anti-American propaganda in the film industry. The film shows Trumbo's resilience in continuing to work as a screenwriter by ghost-writing; indeed producing some of his best work, for which he won Oscars under the guise of fictitious authors.   The friction and toll that these years took on his family leads Trumbo to explore his values and relationships with those he loves.

Cranston does a good job as Dalton Trumbo, though he may be guilty of infusing the character with too much impersonation and not enough inspiration. Maybe it's just me, but I kept seeing Walter White trying to convince his wife that he was a blacklisted screen writer looking for work instead of school teacher living a secret life as a meth cook. Helen Mirren gives a deliciously biting performance as the caustic Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, as does Michael Stuhlbarg as a forlorn Edward G. Robinson. It was also fun to see actor portrayals of other Hollywood big shots from the past; Dean O'Gorman was a dead ringer in looks and mannerisms for a young Kirk Douglas. John Goodman rounds it out by playing producer Frank King with a wit and sarcasm that only John Goodman can bring.

Director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers) doesn't focus on Trumbo's beliefs or motivations. Unfortunately, the film's weakness is that it doesn't focus enough on any one aspect of those blacklisted years. It touches on his family, his working relationships, and his professional troubles, but not with enough substance or to the depth required to raise it to the level of a great film. Still, it is a good one, which manages to hold interest throughout. The recreation of Hollywood of the 1950s is nostalgic and fun, especially if you're a classic movies aficionado like me. It was neat to see scenes from films like Roman Holiday and Spartacus up on the big screen. No doubt some will consider the film a whitewashing of an individual who many regarded as a subversive and a Stalinist. But, regardless of what you believe about Dalton Trumbo and the controversy surrounding his politics and activities, there is no doubt that he persevered against those who disregarded the constitution in their zeal to protect the country in what was to become an embarrassing episode in American history. To that effect, the film succeeds. Dr. Lisa and I give Trumbo three paws out of four.


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