“The news is the first rough draft of history.” – Kay Graham, played by Meryl Streep in The Post
Best Picture, Best Actress in a leading role
Ok. So we have another historical drama here (woo!). This time we are looking at the Washington Post, who at the time was constantly chasing the New York Times for the headline under the leadership of the first female owner of a major US news publication. Set during the Vietnam War, Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) – owner of the newspaper – and Ben Brandlee (Tom Hanks) – editor – essentially put their careers on the line with the decision to join the Times in exposing information kept secret by the government about the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. It’s essentially the story of what it took to get to that decision and the impact of running with those high risk stories that go right at the White House.
My Largely Irrelevant Commentary
I am going to come right out and say it; I went into this movie with really high expectations. Tom Hanks + Meryl Streep + Steven Spielberg = High Expectations.
Spielberg is a master. And you do not have to twist my arm to see a Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep movie, certainly not one starring both. There are very few Meryl Streep movies that I don’t care for. Devil Wears Prada…I mean come on…although it’s a total chick-flick, it’s a personal favorite of mine because she is so perfect in that movie. Top it off with some perfectly placed and executed humor…winner, winner, chicken dinner. Yes, she’s also consistently excellent in many other movies – hence, why I’m a fan. The same goes for Tom Hanks. With the exception of Hologram for a King – sorry Alice, we will have to agree to disagree on that one – and that very strange Circle movie or whatever it was called, I almost always enjoy his movies. Honestly…even when I don’t enjoy their movies, my thought immediately is “I’m sure they did that as a favor to a friend of a friend.” And then I feel better about it.
Anyways, for whatever reason, I also enjoy movies and shows about news publications – think Spolight and Newsroom. Two favorites. So, like the Darkest Hour, I was seeing this one, no question. As an aside, I could on and on how Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom is one of the best shows I have seen. Ever. And that it ended way way way too soon, which makes me sad to this day. But this isn’t a post about Newsroom and the talent that is Jeff Bridges, so I will contain myself! Sort of. Ah – that first episode…so good.
Back to the point…
Steven Spielberg doesn’t mess around with the cast in this movie. You have Hanks and Streep; obvious talent there. But the supporting cast is ridiculous; names we all know, faces we all recognize, but not necessarily all A-listers. I often get a bad feeling when there are so many good names in one film as they tend to be awful movies for whatever reason – dare I mention Batman & Robin or Valentine’s Day and it’s ultra-dumb twin, New Year’s Eve or more recently, Aloha. All packed with A-listers and a crazy good line-up; all terrible. Fortunately, the cast of The Post didn’t fall into that trap at all and they delivered a solid performance. I don’t know the actor that plays Hank’s right-hand guy, but he was great.
I think Hanks and Streep both had knock-out performances taking into account the script they had to work with, so it is somewhat surprising that Hanks didn’t get the nod for a lead nomination like Meryl Streep did, especially in what I think is a pretty weak Lead Actor field for the year (with a stronger year for the lead actors, I don’t think he gets a nomination). That being said, I am not sure it even matters who else has a nomination for Best Actor in a lead role this year because I just cannot fathom a situation where anyone could compete with Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour (see previous post). But all nominations aside, I thought both leads were great (yes, I am biased) – they were convincing and believable, and anytime you can get some of that perfectly timed, dry Streep-humor that she is so flipping good at, you really cannot go wrong.
I really enjoyed the movie. I thought the story was well developed overall, I thought the characters all really had a purpose in the story (and when you have a stacked cast like that sometimes that falls a bit flat), and I thought there was just enough of a suspenseful feeling about it that brought that tension and sense of urgency that the story was portraying over to the audience.
I like the sub-story of the high-powered woman navigating through a very male dominated industry, who makes a shift where she becomes the decision maker, is willing to take risks, and sticks it to the man per say; sort of going against the grain of what is expected from a career woman in the 60s.
For what it’s worth, I also liked the Watergate teaser at the close of the film. Crafty, Steven Spielberg, very very crafty.
If I had one criticism of the film, it’s that I felt some parts took a little too long to develop for my taste. And perhaps that was intentional. And sure, I feel silly questioning Steven Spielberg’s decision making – he seems to know what he’s doing. I think he’s going to go places.
One final point I wanted to make…This film was often referred to as a political thriller. I’m calling bull crapola on that and I am referring to it a historical drama (up top) in reference to the pentagon papers and it being loosely based on a true story. If you buy into the ‘political thriller’ tag (which is fine – no judgement), I think the movie leaves a lot to be desired. But as a historical drama, I thought it delivered. I don’t know if it’s an Oscar winning film, but I can buy into the nomination.