Movie Review ~ Together

1

The Facts:

Synopsis: A husband and wife are forced to re-evaluate themselves and their relationship through the reality of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Stars: James McAvoy, Sharon Horgan, Samuel Logan

Director: Stephen Daldry & Justin Martin

Rated: R

Running Length: 91 minutes

TMMM Score: (9/10)

Review:  With the delta variant nipping at our heels just as much of the world was starting to get back to, maybe not a sense of true normalcy, but at least some semblance of what that mask-less reality could be, it might be difficult to encourage audiences to invest 90 minutes in Together.  We all have our own version of what this past year was like; how it felt to go months without seeing friends and family, to watch as the number of people that died as the result of poor government planning and communal adherence to mandates rose exponentially, and how we started to fear the things we used to cherish like social gatherings, hugs, and face-to-face interactions.  Knowing that, did we need to watch the couple at the center of this heavy dramedy over the course of a year rehash that same journey?

Beginning in March of 2020 during the first days of the COVD-19 lockdown in the U.K., we meet “he” (James McAvoy, Glass) and “she” (Sharon Horgan, Game Night) a couple with a kid (always roaming around the background somewhere) who aren’t on the best of terms when the film starts. They’re not exactly thrilled to be sheltering in place together, but with limited time to plan and few options in which to continue to co-parent, they talk directly to the camera and explain the current state of affairs.  They also bicker…a lot.  If you’re averse to rapid-fire dialogue between arguing couples that has bite to it, best to steer clear of this acidic pair. 

As the months go by and the death toll rises, the two experience the lows of the darkest days when information was slim and slow to come as well as the highs of being forced to get to know one another again in a pressure-cooker situation.  It’s often two steps forward, one step back, though, because inevitably any goodwill built is dashed when either the man or the woman says something that makes the other bristle.  Real life tragedy enters the picture and the movie becomes a gripping glimpse at grief and the stages that follow the process and the processor of that emotion.  It’s all handled with a surprisingly light touch and what could have been a painful exposure of re-opening old wounds instead becomes a visit to the recent past through a wiser lens of knowing better.

I suppose you could skip Together if you really are at the end of your rope with pandemic talk, but I’d encourage you to bookmark this for a viewing later because there’s some wonderful work on display both in front of and behind the camera.  Directed by Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) who shares a co-directing credit with Justin Martin and written by Dennis Kelly (Black Sea), Together premiered in the UK as a television movie back in June, just a scant month after it’s 10-day shooting scheduled concluded.  Relying hard on monologues and fourth wall breaking to heighten the theatricality of the piece, it might also be tempting to write this off as a stage-y work better suited for a live audience, yet I never felt as if this was presented via the wrong medium.

What McAvoy and Horgan lack in physical chemistry they more than make up for in a sort of old-school “sparks flying”, anything you can do I can do better, one-upmanship and that comes across nicely throughout.  Just when you think McAvoy is getting the rosier side of a thorny subject, along comes Horgan with her own staggering monologue that puts her light years away from the razor-sharp comedy she’s known for.  Apart or together, the actors are riveting to watch and Daldry works with cinematographer Iain Struthers (Florence Foster Jenkins) to keep the movement of the camera smooth and minimal, unobtrusive in not breaking the flow of the words.

It’s a hard watch, I’m not going to lie, for a number of reasons, but none should preclude you from gathering to catch the film.  Though planned and broadcast as a television movie in the U.K., Together doesn’t have that waxy feel of British TV as it makes its way over to U.S. shores/audiences.  The performances alone make it worth a recommendation and that the actors have tackled a hot button topic and kept the flames stoked only makes it a more solid thumbs up in my book.

Movie Review ~ Dream Horse

1

The Facts:

Synopsis: A Welsh cleaner and bartender persuades her neighbors and friends to contribute financially to breed and rear a racehorse. The group’s unlikely investment plan pays off as the horse rises through the ranks and puts them in a race for the national championship.

Stars: Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, Owen Teale, Joanna Page, Nicholas Farrell, Siân Phillips, Karl Johnson

Director: Euros Lyn

Rated: PG

Running Length: 113 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review:  When settling down to watch this quaint, PG-rated bit of molasses, I suddenly felt the urge to seek out a skein of yarn and start to knit a very large, comfy sweater.  There’s something about the tiny Welsh village setting, gentle plot mechanics, and, if not vibrantly colorful, then slightly washed-out characters which just calls for a knit one, pearl two pattern to keep your hands busy.  It will at least keep your mind from drifting too far away from Dream Horse which feels like a movie that’s been around the track a few times and is almost ready to be put out to pasture.  However, like many final laps, this one rallies at the most important moments and reminds you why the structure has worked so well time after time.

I remember seeing ads for Dream Horse last year before all the release dates shifted and I give credit to its US distributor Bleecker Street for holding on to it a full year after it was originally due to come out.  They could have moved it to a streaming release like many of their higher profile releases (Supernova comes to mind) but instead they’ve let it out of the gate right as vaccinated audiences are being told they can head back to the theater (and follow the mask mandates).  While many viewers will be clamoring for the rock ‘em sock ‘em blockbuster titles, there are a good number who will see this one as a quieter bridge to ease their way into a picture larger than their TV with a soundsystem that goes just a little higher than the one they have in their living rooms.  That it works as a pure audience pleaser at its best moments doesn’t hurt either.

Ah, but does it ever take its time getting there!  I honestly wasn’t sure Dream Horse would ever move from a trot to a full gallop during its first hour which establishes the plan made by supermarket cashier Jan Vokes (Toni Collette, Muriel’s Wedding) to form a racehorse syndicate among a group of villagers in Cefn Fforest, a former mining town in South Wales.  Her vision is to buy a mare and pair it with a thoroughbred racing stallion.  The foal the two horses would produce would be “owned” by the group who would front the costs for all of the expenses it cost to raise the horse.  When the horse grew into its potential, any profits from championships won would be divided among the neighbors.

The script from Neil McKay tends to move quickly over some of the finer details within this initial set-up and doesn’t bother filling in some other gaps along the way (Jan has two children who we never see or hear much of which have left her and husband Brian as empty nesters) and this can be frustrating to a viewer wanting to get more character bang for their buck.  What McKay and director Euros Lyn do like to spend time with is in the mundanity of syndicate meetings that follow the typical trajectory of Jan having to convince those initially hesitant to come onboard only to then almost be ousted from her own group that suddenly feels they know better. 

Often in these sporting films the “sport” winds up being the least interesting thing on screen but in Dream Horse it’s the opposite.  Just as I was thinking the film would be a disappointing misfire, albeit a well-performed and well-intentioned one, Lyn and cinematographer Erik Wilson (Paddington 2) stage the first of several races that will raise your blood pressure far more than you’d expect.  Add in Benjamin Woodgates (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) score which is equal parts rousing and relentless and it creates a feeling like you’re right there cheering from the sidelines.  It creates a dramatically different sensation than the rest of the film, one that invests in emotions almost by accident.

Although the actress is able to disappear into most any working-class role with ease, it’s not quite the performance from Collette I think is in her wheelhouse.  I just didn’t connect with her connection to the horse, only later on when you see how the horse represents something much more than we originally think does it begin to make sense.  During the film’s laudable closing credits (done with gusto in a music hall style sing along) we see some of the real people involved, making one appreciate how well Owen Teale (Tolkien) transformed into the rough and rumpled teddy bear husband of Jan…down to the set of teeth that look assembled from the Tooth Fairy’s junk drawer.  There’s perhaps one too many leads fighting for attention, meaning Damian Lewis (Run This Town) gets overshadowed (unintentionally) by Teale and a few of the more memorable residents of Cefn Fforest.

I’d be lying if I said the final twenty minutes of the movie didn’t aid in almost entirely erasing that first stodgy hour, so while it doesn’t totally wipe the slate clean, Dream Horse crosses the finish line in a well-earned position.  It will at least help others, like me, finish up some knitting projects that went by the wayside if they watch it at home.

Movie Review ~ Together Together

1


The Facts:

Synopsis: When young loner Anna is hired as the surrogate for Matt, a single man in his 40s, the two strangers come to realize this unexpected relationship will quickly challenge their perceptions of connection, boundaries and the particulars of love.

Stars: Ed Helms, Patti Harrison, Rosalind Chao, Julio Torres, Tig Notaro, Nora Dunn, Fred Melamed, Sufe Bradshaw, Anna Konkle, Evan Jonigkeit, May Calamawy, Ellen Dubin

Director: Nikole Beckwith

Rated: R

Running Length: 90 minutes

TMMM Score: (9/10)

Review: I don’t want you to run for the hills or race to the comment section when you read this next sentence, but here we go.  In the realm of pregnancy films, it’s time men get their due.  There, I said it, I stand by it, and now I’ll tell you why.   

Over the years in countless films, the male members of the cast have served purposes that have largely reflected on the time the film was made.  Early movies showed men as the sole breadwinner, the one that went to work all day and came home to a clean house with dinner on the table and the kids waiting to say hello before trotting off to bed.  Then came the fight for gender equality resulting in fathers slowly taking on a more balanced piece of the household puzzle.  When stay-at-home moms went back to work, the stay-at-home dad was born and a power balance shifted yet again.  All stages of this were reflected in some part on screens big and small but one thing was always the same: the nuclear family and parenting, with ideas of men raising children on their own by their own choice almost unheard of.  As the definition of “what makes a family” has changed, so have artistic representations of an even more detailed question, “what makes a parent?”. 

That’s the question that seems to be a tiny jumping off point for understanding why a rare gem like Together Together is so welcome and important a release in 2021.  Here we have a successful, stable, single-man approaching middle age (is mid ‘40s still considered middle age? I’d like a ruling on that.) who wants to be a father, hasn’t found the right woman, and decides to seek a surrogate to carry his child.  While this situation is not uncommon, it’s not heard of as often as a woman making similar plans so the people the man meets throughout the film almost have to hear the news twice to understand what they’ve just been told.   

Thankfully, writer/director Nikole Beckwith hasn’t set out to make an awkwardly educational film about gender norms and has instead crafted a genuine, heartfelt love story between two individuals that aren’t even a couple.  Matt (Ed Helms, Vacation) is an app-designer who has hired barista Anna (Patti Harrison, A Simple Favor) to be his surrogate for the child he’s always wanted.  In their first meeting, Beckwith stages Matt’s interview of Anna almost like a strange first date with him asking her questions and receiving the type of slightly off-the-mark responses that should be red flags but somehow seem less troublesome coming from the reserved but honest younger woman.  It’s in this first scene that Helms and Harrison demonstrate a red-hot chemistry, not in a sexual way, but in that friendship rapport which is nearly impossible to capture quite like they have done. 

As both navigate through the pregnancy, Beckwith approaches a number of familiar situations that might seem to be going one direction like every other baby comedy you’ve seen before, which the filmmaker then dovetails out of from the expected territory into new terrain at the last second.  Even when it does fall back on some stale jokes and bits that have been chewed over before in other movies (remnants from previous iterations of the screenplay, I’m sure), the performers are so alarmingly charming that you sort of don’t mind they’re playing for laughs off of material way past its expiration date for originality. 

I feel like I haven’t seen Helms a lot lately but it’s nice to find him back again and playing a regular guy that has some of the same fears and phobias all of us do that pass the big 4-0.  It would have been simple for Beckwith to write Matt with more neurosis about his age and relationship status (and even easier for Helms to play these character blips) but by making him so middle of the road it makes him more relatable to everyone watching, no matter what gender you have assigned to yourself.  The star turn here is clearly Harrison who I liked a lot more in this than I have in Hulu’s Shrill where she plays someone far more caustic and harder to warm to.  Anna has quite the fleet of baggage to drag behind her and Harrison isn’t afraid to show that strain wears on her after a while.  There’s a vulnerability to Anna that’s evident from the start and isn’t constantly hidden beneath a strong veneer, making the performance unique in its approach.   

While Helms and Harrison are two fantastic leads, they have some serious competition from their supporting cast, starting with Sufe Bradshaw (Star Trek) playing their ultrasound nurse who seems to be all business, until it’s time to get real with the couple once she notices a change in their interactions.  Bradshaw is assigned a similar version of the hilariously stern role she played in Veep but it’s the right choice for this observant character.  The deadpan Tig Notaro (Lucy in the Sky) works her magic on the few scenes she appears in as a therapist with the surrogacy program meant to help Matt and Anna with any emotional support they need along the way.  However, it’s Julio Torres that almost can’t help himself from stealing each and every minute of screen time he’s in as Jules, Anna’s moody co-worker.  A former writer for Saturday Night Live, Torres achieves high levels of laughs for his hysterical one-liners and non sequiturs.   

Clocking in at an ultra-trim 90 minutes, Together Together is one of the few movies you’ll hear me say I almost wish was a little longer.  Almost.  As it is, I think Beckwith has gauged the ebb and flow of the emotions of her characters correctly and timed a truly lovely and maybe even perfect finale to roll in at just the right time.  If you don’t get paired up with Together Together now, trust that you’ll find your way to it eventually through word of mouth or by your favorite streaming service suggesting it to you.  A winning combination of actors and script elevate this to a high recommendation. 

Movie Review ~ The World to Come

1


The Facts
:

Synopsis: Somewhere along the mid-19th century American East Coast frontier, two neighboring couples battle hardship and isolation, witnessed by a splendid yet testing landscape, challenging them both physically and psychologically.

Stars: Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Casey Affleck, Christopher Abbott

Director: Mona Fastvold

Rated: R

Running Length: 98 minutes

TMMM Score: (3/10)

Review:  There’s something strange about the way that movies have treated the love affairs between women over the last few years (and probably longer) because it seems that they just can’t catch a break.  In films like Carol, The Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Ammonite, etc. the passion and connection established is born in the midst of severe strife and is more often than not left unfulfilled.  This observance is nothing new to be sure and in fact it’s what many critics and even casual film fans have noted for a number of years as one of the chief rules of love between same sex couples onscreen.  There must be pain.  Loss is a given.  Happiness is rare.  It’s the guiding principle for screenwriting, it seems.

Here we are in February of a new year and already there’s another example to prove the case.  However, there’s a lot more problematic in The World to Come than the way it shows the relationship between two dreary farmer’s wives in the mid-19th century.  Unique in that it features beautiful cinematography that is at the same time strikingly dull to behold, the entire film feels like a quilt that’s been left outside overnight during a rainstorm that you now are asked to snuggle up with.  It’s chilly, musty, wet, and heavy, offering little in the way of comfort or care.  You certainly can’t see any intricates that went into the making of it because it has been overtaken by the elements.

Adapted by Jim Shepard and Ron Hansen from Shepard’s original short story, The World to Come creaks to life with Katherine Waterston croaking through stilted narration detailing farm life with her husband (Casey Affleck, Our Friend) in upstate New York.   Though meant to convey an old-tyme-y vibe, the dialogue often winds up sounding like an outdated script from a historical walking tour; a line about Affleck’s quiet farmer needing to fetch “calico” and “shoe leather” officially did me in.  This era of living was tough, to be sure, but Waterston’s (Inherent Vice) Abigail pitches her monotone line readings far too dreary from the jump, she’s so wrist-slittingly somber that you can’t blame Affleck as Dyer for withdrawing in favor of keeping his head down to work with the farm animals that at least acknowledge his presence.

A ray of fiery happiness arrives when Tallie (Vanessa Kirby, Me Before You) and Finney (Christopher Abbott, Possessor) rent the farm nearby.  Sensing a kinship with the outspoken woman, Abigail becomes fascinated with Tallie and the chance for connection at a deeper level.  That Tallie responds in kind makes each day a little brighter for Abigail and she finds a new reason for maintaining the farm and herself…even while Tallie struggles to keep her own husband happy.  Finney is different than Dyer in that the more Tallie retreats from him the more forceful he becomes, and the question gets to be how far can she pull away before he either lets her go one way or another?  As the women grow closer, the danger of being found out increases but they are emboldened by their newfound freedom of emotional joy.  It won’t last…and you know that’s not a spoiler.

Norwegian actor turned director Mona Fastvold seems to understand the key to the film is the bond between Abigail and Tallie but she forgets there needs to be some sort of knowledge of the men in their lives as well to make their clandestine relationship have essential meaning in turn.  Waterston is arguably the main character and there’s just a lot of her moping around the farm avoiding her husband and checking her invisible watch wondering where Tallie is.  That’s not the sweeping romance the ads for this movie are promising, let me assure you.  So it’s almost up to Kirby and Abbott to keep the fire of the film burning hot and they can’t stoke it all on their own.  They almost get there, almost, in a tense dinner scene near the end that tells us far more about their relationship in those few minutes than we’ve learned about Abigail and Dyer in the previous sixty.   Abbott’s character is quite the unrelenting pig of a husband and he’s gotten aces at playing these type of abhorrent men…maybe too good.  For me, it came down to Kirby as the one bright spot the film has to offer and it’s the single treasure The World to Come is entirely stingy with.  Whenever she’s onscreen, there’s some pulse to it, even if it’s faint.  However, when she’s absent the movie is cold as ice.

Filmed in Romania subbing for NY, cinematographer André Chemetoff gets some picturesque shots in but most of what we see comes off as less pastoral and fertile and more grubby and worked over.  Totally incongruous with the tone and images is musician Daniel Blumberg’s obtrusive score, giving off the feeling that the composer didn’t see the film he was contributing to.  It’s just another part of the overall puzzling nature of The World to Come, composed of a bunch of pieces that might work well in their own right but fail to form a complete picture.  More than anything, I’m just over these tortured love affairs for same sex couples…this feels like a construct that should be put out to pasture.  Let love win for once, I beg of you.

Movie Review ~ The Secrets We Keep


The Facts
:

Synopsis: In post-World War II America, a woman, rebuilding her life in the suburbs with her husband, kidnaps her neighbor and seeks vengeance for the heinous war crimes she believes he committed against her.

Stars: Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Chris Messina, Amy Seimetz, Jackson Dean Vincent, Madison Paige Jones, Jeff Pope, David Maldonado, Ed Amatrudo, Ritchie Montgomery

Director: Yuval Adler

Rated: R

Running Length: 97 minutes

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review:  In 1990, playwright Ariel Dorfman wrote a charged play titled Death and The Maiden which centered on a former political prisoner that has started a new life with her husband in a remote part of the world.  Though it’s been years since her torture and rape at the hands of brutal guards, she remains haunted by her memories. When she believes she has run into one of her former captors by chance, she kidnaps him and enacts revenge…even though she isn’t totally sure he is the man who assaulted her those many years ago.  The play was a hit in London and Broadway before being turned into a 1994 movie from Roman Polanski starring Sigourney Weaver.

I was reminded of Death and the Maiden often while watching the new drama The Secrets We Keep because it shares many plot points with Dorfman’s earlier work.  Though it strays from the 1990 piece is several key areas, it almost feels like a slinky remake, albeit with less of a politicized edge than Dorfman implied and Polanski capitalized on.  Director and co-screenwriter Yuval Adler and his screenwriter collaborator Ryan Covington actually wind up treading on a lot of familiar ground here, producing a film that has a meaningful message at its core but is hampered by a clumsy delivery system.  Instead of truly delving into the dark areas it hints at, it opts to keep the night light on and avoid confronting anything seriously horrific.

Adler sets the film in 1959 anytown USA where housewife Maja (Noomi Rapace, Dead Man Down) lives with her doctor husband Lewis (Chris Messina, Live by Night) and son Patrick (Jackson Dean Vincent).  Their idyllic, post WWII town is thriving with a local refinery in full bore and an influx of returning veterans expanding their families.  The film has barely caught its breath when Maja hears a familiar whistle while lounging in the park with her son and follows the sound to a man that stirs a repressed memory.  A Romanian, Maja’s family was slaughtered by the Nazis and she was raped, along with her sister, by a gang of soldiers before escaping…the survivors guilt she harbors has been crippling and it all returns with that one whistle.

Convinced she has found one of the men that committed that heinous crime against her, she quickly puts together a plan to kidnap him and force him into confessing.  Turns out, Maja is quite resourceful and nabbing the unsuspecting man (Joel Kinnaman, RoboCop) and getting him set-up in her basement isn’t all that difficult…but getting him to admit who he is will be.  With Lewis involved and her desperation to get the truth becoming more important than ever, Maja will resort to anything to uncover the truth.  Yet the question lingers, has Maja accused the wrong man?  Hints at psychiatric trauma and recent therapeutic sessions suggest there’s maybe a reason to doubt her recall of the events or call into question her judgement where her family is concerned.

Though the film is filled with numerous moments of supposed tension hinging on the discovery of a man trapped in the basement of this otherwise picturesque couple, I was surprised at how little energy the movie spends to create any kind of spark in anyone or anything.  There’s this general somber tone throughout and a drained-out color scheme that makes everything feel it’s either just coming back to life or about to take its last breath.  Rapace in particular looks so suspicious, you’d think she was hiding an entire football team and their grandmothers in her basement…she always looks rattled.  When she befriends the wife of the man (played by She Dies Tomorrow director Amy Seimetz with the kind of interesting mystery the entire film needed  more of) I kept waiting for the wife to ask her to blink twice if she needed help at home.

While the production design is solid and the costumes are more than just your usual pencil skits and trousers look, everything else just seems to tow the line…and that’s too bad because there’s an important story here waiting to be told.  Messina seems to be the one that’s hopped on the right train and knows where he’s headed and Kinnaman does too, for a bit, until the character has a shift that doesn’t get to be explored fully.  I always want to like Rapace more in films but possibly with the exception of 2012’s Prometheus she’s just never been as good or well represented as she was in the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films in Sweden that made her famous.  While she’s well suited for the role, it ultimately proves to be another wrong fit for the actress.

The atrocious crimes committed by German Nazis against Jews and other marginalized Europeans during WWII have been explored and exploited by the entertainment industry for years by now.  It’s gotten to the point that the horrific rapes and murders depicted in the flashbacks seen in The Secrets We Keep are easy to chalk up alongside everyday crimes we’ve been desensitized to by the television and movies we watch.  I say that not to condemn the filmmakers of this film or any other with similar themes but to put into perspective how commonplace the acts portrayed within seem to have become…and make sure we never truly forget the real lives that were affected.  That’s one key area where the film succeeds, in detailing how this trauma can infest your entire life and the lives of others if not dealt with.

Movie Review ~ Trumbo

trumbo

The Facts:

Synopsis: In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood’s top screenwriter until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.

Stars: Bryan Cranston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Diane Lane, Alan Tudyk, Michael Stuhlbarg, Helen Mirren

Director: Jay Roach

Rated: R

Running Length: 124 minutes

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review: Though it’s not a great movie, Trumbo has been enthusiastically received by the lords and ladies of Tinseletown and I think I know why.  There’s nothing Hollywood loves so much as a good redemption story…especially one that it’s involved with.  Any chance they have to pat themselves on the back is taken with glee, even if it’s involving a dark stain on its history that never should have happened in the first place.

Playing like a made for TV movie that could have aired on HBO (where director Jay Roach has seen several of his political projects find great acclaim over the last decade), Trumbo is a hammy take on the years when numerous Hollywood players were put on the blacklist thanks to the McCarthy hearings.  Thought to be Communists in a time of great fear of the unknown, friends turned on friends and the mere mention of affiliation with the Communist parties saw careers, not to mention lives, destroyed.

Already explored in countless films/documentaries over the years (including a fictionalized take like 1991’s also mediocre Guilty by Suspicion), the way that Trumbo could have set itself apart was not playing like a standard biopic of one man’s downfall.  Yet it falls prey to every convention, every plot trap, every pothole that you can think of.  It may be a mildly diverting piece of entertainment, but it doesn’t go beyond the surface.

What elevates the film is the presence of several star players.  Helen Mirren and John Goodman have some solid screen time and make the most of it.  Mirren (Hitchcock) is Hedda Hopper, the notorious Hollywood gossip columnist with a poison pen for anyone that crosses her.  Mirren’s demeanor changes on a dime when challenged and the actress balances that sweet/sour persona with ease.  Goodman (Flight) is also notable as the hot-headed small-time studio exec that isn’t one to be pushed around.  And before Diane Lane (Man of Steel) fades into the background as her role becomes mere wallpaper, she’s a strong matriarch in a family that’s struggling.

These three performances can’t save the picture, though, mostly because they aren’t the leading player.  I’ve long struggled with Bryan Cranston (Godzilla, Rock of Ages) onscreen, feeling that he’s never as good as people think he is and certainly lacking the charisma that made his Breaking Bad character such a legend.  He’s off the mark here for most of the picture, cartoonishly impersonating Dalton Trumbo’s voice and mannerisms that suggest he’s older than he really is.  It’s only when the character actually ages that the performance matches up.

Worst of the bunch is Louis C.K., completely out of his league as a disgraced writer dealt even more devastating blows as he falls from favor.  The comedian seems uncomfortable in front of the camera and with his dialogue, never convincing us that he’s to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor.  It’s a woefully poor performance, and put up against the roster of other strong cast members it just can’t be considered on the same level.

As a biopic, I guess Trumbo earns marks for its draft of events.  It’s workmanlike in its execution and the production design is pleasing.  Still, I kept waiting for the film to be better, to say something extraordinary…instead of just playing by the rules.  Aside from Mirren, Goodman, and Lane…it’s a fairly insignificant telling of a painful part of history.