2 posts categorized "Historical Drama"

January 22, 2021

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

Trial_of_the_chicago_sevenGlib. Forgettable. Writer/director Aaron Sorkin gets out his arsenal of narrative formula templates to simplify an otherwise complex story of ‘60s era political theater. The effect is entertaining up to a point before it hits you that Robert Altman would have been much better at telling the story at hand if he were still alive. Hell, Oliver Stone would have done a better job.

The trial in question arose from the actions of a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The film’s ensemble of actors (Yaha Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Flaherty, Joseph Gordon, Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Jeremy Strong, and John Carroll Lynch) give credible performances that come across as an afterthought in the context of Sorkin’s heavy hand.

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 11.02.30 PM

Courtroom dramas are a notoriously prickly genre to begin with. This one finds Aaron Sorkin falling on his own sword. The movie plays more as a showpiece of Hollywood machinery than as a filmic document of a crisis of ideologies at a time when it seemed that the People might get a leg up on the corruption at the heart of the American war machine. As if such a thing could be possible.

Chicago 7

From a technical standpoint, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is serviceable but Sorkin’s knee-jerk quick-cutting crutch wears out its welcome. Aaron Sorkin’s motivations for making the movie in our current political climate seems like a foregone conclusion. Nothing has the emotional weight it purports to possess even if the actors are compelling in their roles as voices of dissent. The problem is that Sorkin wants so badly to deliver a feel-good movie that he misses all of the heartbreak inflicted on the accused activists who never agreed on anything. This is a Cheese Whiz movie for 12-year-olds, not for adults.  

Chicago 7

Rated R. 129 mins.

Two Stars

June 01, 2016

LOVING — CANNES 2016

LovingCannes, France —Jeff Nichols’s “Loving” is an anodyne telling of the interracial Virginia couple (Richard and Mildred Loving) whose 1967 Supreme Court case forever altered regional laws allowing such couple’s rights to marry.

Actors Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton give strong performances, but can’t compensate for numerous failings in Nichols’s underdeveloped script. Although the Ethiopian-born Negga was passed over for the Best Actress Palme at Cannes, her slow-burn portrayal left its mark on Riviera audiences.

Nichols’s tentative narrative is such a whitewashed version of history that the film must be classified as one more preaching-to-the-choir drama aimed primarily at white audiences looking for positive reinforcement that they aren’t bigots.

The same is also true for black audiences.

Only once in the film does Richard catch even an ounce of hell from the black community he seemingly inhabits without conflict. You can bet that the real Richard Loving received plenty of ugly confrontation from both whites and blacks for his interracial choice.

Loving2

But most egregious is the film’s refusal to show the Supreme Court in action during the trial that the entire story is pinned to. Without giving any window into the judge responsible for the decision, or the climate in the courtroom, the audience is left in the lurch about how this momentous decision was reached.

“Loving” isn’t the laziest historical drama, but is far from the rigorous film that it should be.

Rated PG-13. 123 mins. (C) (Two stars — out of five / no halves)

Cannes 69 Complete from Cole Smithey on Vimeo.

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