I remember well All The Presidents Men. Redford and Hoffman, of course but also Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee the fearsome editor of the Washington Post. What distinguished it was the tension that the story telling generated even though we all knew the ending. And that, really was down to the acting and direction.
The Post, telling the story of the immediately preceding scandal of the Pentagon Papers and whether the Press would publish them despite a court injunction not to, is well trodden history. There’s no sex, no violence, no thrills and spills. No lives are at risk here. Well apart from the poor smucks stuck in South East Asia on the many false premises that underpinned the US involvement there. There’s a sort of subliminal threat that Nixon might do something but taking out the principle players isn’t on anyone’s agenda here.
No, there’s a plethora of cocktail parties and smoke-filled rooms of, mostly, men – Bull Mastodons rutting against some opponent, real or imagined. There are a lot of egos here. You wonder if it really was about the principle – First Amendment Rights against the right of the executive to define National Security – as much as proving who is the Biggest Dog, with Largest Cojones.
The thing here is that the Grandest of Gonads belong to a nervy Washington Hostess Katherine Graham who has inherited the Washington Post on the death of her husband. It’s a simple, modern message, with echoes of the prejudices against women in positions of power that still echo Today.
Yes. Simple. That’s my trouble with what is otherwise a worthy effort to bring what is now dusty history to life on screen. There are three main female characters here, amongst a sea of testosterone. Mrs Graham, Ben Bradlee’s artist wife and a hard bitten but underneath it all caring senior member of the editorial team. They are all sympathetic and unflawed – restricted by background and circumstance, yes rather than their own characters. Unlike the men. They are all flawed, even the mostly heroic Bradlee. It takes an insight from his wife to make him realise the really brave player here is Mrs Graham and not him. He sees himself as the hero in his own story – and he is, but not in the same ballpark as her.
Too black and white, basically. The difference being, I think, between those who use their positions for power – all men – and those whose power comes despite their positions – the women.
Let’s be clear. This is a very enjoyable history lesson with absolutely top notch acting from Streep and Hanks et al. Streep is a genius, truly and we are lucky to have her to fill the screen with her talent. The way she stands up to her (all male) board, finally, is a perfect piece of acting. She remains uncertain, nervous, unsure but bloody determined. There’s no triumphalism here. It’s exhausting being a rebel against expectations and it shows. This is a movie to see, to enjoy.
But then it’s Spielberg who directs. And it’s a bit preachy frankly. As is his wont. Maybe he’s never really stopped making children’s films; maybe he can’t resist including a ‘message’ for us, just in case we don’t get the point. Come on Stephen. You may have a moron for a POTUS but the rest of us have a tinge of sophistication.
On the ice cream front I have to admit to being too late to grab one on the way in but we stayed for a drink after with our friends. And I had a ginger beer that was, in truth, an explosive treat. Now why can’t they make ginger beer ice cream with the same bite? That would be just peachy!
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