January 26, 2013

Lincoln (2012)

Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, and about a million other recognizable people in Hollywood

Oh, Daniel Day Lewis. You and your three names, just like a serial killer. (Side note: after watching Gangs of New York, I am convinced you could be a serial killer if this whole acting thing doesn't work out.) Sometimes Hollywood falls all over itself to fawn over so-so actors or so-so performances, awarding Oscars based on longevity or politics or, in the case of women, whoever dared to dress up as an ugly person (e.g. Charlize Theron in Monster, Nicole Kidman in The Hours). But there is a reason all of Hollywood can't stop geeking out every time Daniel Day Lewis does a movie. He's freaking awesome. I mean, no offense to Maryl Streep, but if she can have three Oscars, there is no reason he shouldn't. (I'm sure that will soon be rectified next month.)

In a quick ode to Daniel Day Lewis, let's quickly recap: he has two Oscars already, both for Best Actor in  Leading Role (no pesky Best Supporting Actor roles here). He only does a movie every two or three years, and they're almost always commercially successful (um... except Nine..). He's also one of those crazy 'method actors' who can't break character the entire time they're filming. Do I believe he is probably a complete weirdo in real life? Absolutely. But I thank him for it. And I thank Steven Spielberg for choosing this weirdo to be in this movie because I cannot imagine anyone else playing this part. He even freaking looks like Lincoln! (Which yes, I know is mostly thanks to the make-up people.) Frankly, the movie poster says it all--Daniel Day Lewis. Lincoln. That's pretty much the movie.

Anyway, I could go on and on about all the amazing historical details Spielberg subtly included in the movie, but one thing that really struck me was Lincoln's apparent penchant for diverging into little anecdotes at particularly irritating times. In some ways, it added a lightness to an otherwise very heavy movie, but it also sometimes felt like you were trapped in your grandfather's house, listening to him tell you old war stories while your parents silently scold you to pay attention and act interested.

But my love fest of Daniel Day Lewis and Steven Spielberg can't hide the fact that while this movie was very well done, it's also sort of boring. Not for me, but I'm a history dork. I can't in good conscious recommend it to anyone who:

A. hates history
B. hates Lincoln (uh... former slaveowners?), or
C. is foreign and/or hard of hearing

It's a historical movie. But unlike other historical movies, there's virtually no chance (at least I hope so) that you don't know the outcome. I mean, unless you still think slavery is legal in this country. And I know that a surprise ending isn't necessary for all movies, but the whole thing really lacks a necessary tension because you KNOW it's all going to work out. It's like watching an episode of Dora the Explorer - you don't need to worry about the obstacles of crossing the crooked river and getting through the witch's forest to reach the Crystal Kingdom - you know she and Boots will get there and sing the "we did it" song. (Except in the case of Lincoln, you know he will also eventually get shot in the head. Call it a dark version of Dora, sans espaƱol.)

It's also all dialogue. Like, all. So anyone who doesn't have a solid grasp of the English language or needs a hearing aid is not going to understand half of what is being said. Again, I found it interesting because it gave a glimpse into Lincoln's ability to negotiate through tenuous political situations, but... that kind of description doesn't exactly scream a lively Saturday night. 

Oh, and Tommy Lee Jones' wig is the worst piece of hair I've seen since Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code.

Final word: It's a really well done movie on an interesting topic, but I hope never to sit through it a second time.


  1. I'm dragging my feet to see this already, and your review isn't making it any easier. Too many long, boring (but Oscar nominated?) movies out right now.

  2. i heart DDL. Yes, I now call him DDL