Overview: The story of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who, in 1947, along with other artists, was jailed and blacklisted for being a member of the Communist Party during the height of the Red Scare. Bleecker Street; 2015; Rated R; 124 Minutes.
Producing: Trumbo‘s story, a glorious tale of a group of men exposing certain follies of government, is fascinating. And, with Hollywood’s inherent fascination with itself and film-making, it is a marvel how long it took a star-studded biopic like itself to come into fruition. The film tells the aged story with a second wind. Energy flows through the first act, stagnating in the second, only to rejuvenate again in the third. With an almost comedic approach at what should be very dark themes, John McNamara forges a script with enough wit to entertain, even if it lacks the depth to reach the historical maturity that the titular screenwriter deserves. Historically, the film does have a disappointing focus on communism itself, rather than on the effects of the government and the Motion Picture Association’s stance on said political movement.
Screenwriting: As we watch the sheer audacious brilliance of the Hollywood 10 as they make their struggle against their government turn into something deeper and more substantial; as Trumbo realizes his seemingly glorious martyrdom hides selfish intent, the film becomes absolutely dull and cliche-riddled. The direction lacks the excitement to carry the film’s ideas to the degree of its writing, and it is not until justice returns and the nature of the film reverts back to its upbeat origins that director Jay Roach’s film starts to feel wholly enjoyable again, if not, once more, completely shallow. Perhaps this is a case of mere tonal inconsistency, or maybe the film dooms itself from the outset. Bottom line, Trumbo attempts a lighthearted stance that does not resonate as much as its story demands.
Directing: Although its direction is stale and lacking, the film itself is not. Brilliant performances abound, from leads Bryan Cranston and Diane Lane, to the likes of Louis C.K., and all of the others in supporting roles that bring to life the celebrities of the era, invoking a strong sense of nostalgia for a bygone time, as well as creating lively and electric scenes throughout. John Goodman stands out as the primary King brother, a producer self aware to his project’s sheer lack of quality. In bringing life to the film, Goodman’s scenes ooze especially, with the actor carrying the Coen Brothers’ decided influence.
Overall: Despite Trumbo‘s entertainment value, it is shameful in the ignorance it perpetuates. It tells a fascinating and complex story that is almost unknown to the more recent generations, but simultaneously condemns it to obscurity with its forgettable nature.