January 25, 2018

The Post (2017)

Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep

Somehow it seems this awards season the more I'm looking forward to a movie is inversely proportional to how much I will enjoy it.

So. Tom Hanks. Meryl Streep. In a movie about journalistic integrity. It checks all the boxes. 

The problem is it doesn't do much more than that. First of all, the beginning 30 minutes or so is complete chaos. I mean, scattered conversation, people running around, and an audience left scrambling to try and figure out who is who and what the hell is going on. I didn't live through the Vietnam War, so while I'm familiar with the broad strokes of this story, I can't immediately identify characters and remember exactly what their role was. I can't imagine what the beginning of this movie would be like for those are aren't familiar with the story. (And before you become over-righteously indignant about the lack of historical knowledge in this country, first ask yourself if you've supported politicians gutting arts and social studies in favor of STEM subjects because it will "help our country.")

After a chaotic beginning, the story picks up and there is a lot of excitement surrounding the acquisition of the Pentagon Papers (no, not those Pentagon Papers), what they contained, and the stakes for publishing the information inside of them. The story itself is fascinating. The movie about it is less so.

It's hard to pinpoint where exactly the movie went wrong in portraying such an important (and timely) story, but maybe somewhere in the third rousing monologue from Hanks about the importance of freedom of the press? Don't get me wrong, I think the freedom of the press is probably our most precious freedom, but do we need a speech to understand that? Er, several speeches?

This movie just sort of hits you over the head with its points. Yes, it was a monumental decision to publish those papers, made by the only female owner of a newspaper. And though I'm glad Sarah Paulson's character took fifteen seconds to explain why it was so monumental, it felt like yet another explanation of why this movie was important. Telling, not showing, so to speak.

Lastly, I take issue with Meryl Streep. Not her performance, which is fine. But the recognition of it as something award-worthy. It's not. There are some performances that feel tailor-made for her, but this role felt like it could have been played by literally any accomplished actress over the age of 50. And Tom Hanks, bless his heart, takes on a very odd accent that disappears any time he yells. So it feels like this movie is only being recognized because Hanks and Streep are in it, though I think it may have been better off without them. Maybe it would have felt more like a collaborative ensemble of bravery than a movie about two people I'd never heard of before today. More Spotlight, less this.

Final word: It's no Spotlight, that's for sure.

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