This movie is Oscar-bait, since it’s Steven Spielberg showing sanctimonious speeches, and it stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. Yet the most deserving of an Oscar — Bob Odenkirk as Ben Bagdikian — is probably the only one involved that won’t get a nomination. He has the real feel of an old-school reporter. Hanks, on the other hand, isn’t very convincing as one. Perhaps it’s because us old timers remember Jason Robards doing such a terrific job playing Ben Bradlee in All the President’s Men.
Streep, who has recently gotten a few Oscar nominations she didn’t deserve [August: Osage County and Florence Foster Jenkins], will get a well-deserved 21st nomination for this. She plays Washington Post owner Kathryn Graham. She often didn’t get the respect she deserved, having inherited her father’s paper from her late husband, and being a woman in a field of men.
Editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) is ticked The New York Times broke a story exposing the “Pentagon Papers,” which deal with a Vietnam cover-up and government secrets. The Nixon Administration is suing the paper, just as the Post has the opportunity to publish these unauthorized documents.
Ben Bagdikian (Odenkirk) sneaks the papers out, spending hours and hours making copies of them. Spielberg shines as he delivers us those scenes, and the previous scenes in Vietnam. Although at this point I’d like to ask filmmakers if they realize there were bands other than Creedence Clearwater Revival during the Vietnam era.
The supporting cast (of many TV actors) are all solid: Zach Woods, Matthew Rhys, Bradley Whitford, David Cross, Alison Brie, and Carrie Coon. And the guy who has had a lot of powerful performances the last few years — Michael Stuhlbarg — shows up here, too.
As great an actress as Sarah Paulson is, she looked a lot younger than Hanks to be playing the wife. I looked it up and she’s 18 years younger. In real life, Ben Bradlee’s wife was actually 3 years older than he was. It makes that casting decision rather confusing. Since women in Hollywood are complaining about not making as much as their male co-stars…perhaps they can also campaign against always having to be half the age of their male co-stars.
There were lots of great scenes in this movie. I liked an early one that showed a reflection in a payphone booth. It was thrilling when Graham stood up to board members (that will be the scene they show at the Oscars).
A subtle scene with Graham has her walking down the steps of a courthouse, and a younger female reporter looks at her in awe.
The scenes of the press room — people working on a newspaper, trucks on the dock in the early morning, and watching as the bundles are tossed out to the curbs. At times, it was like a more exciting Spotlight. Yet Spotlight is the better movie. This needed at least two of the self-righteous monologues left on the cutting room floor.
Hanks didn’t feel right for this role. He could roll up his sleeves and bark orders at an intern, but it felt like he was acting, and not the least bit authentic.
Janusz Kaminski’s photography was terrific, but the John Williams score didn’t work for this. One of the rare missteps from that talented composer.
The movie was dull at times and a bit flat. It also had the worst ending of an Oscar nominated movie since the rat on the window sill scene in The Departed.
It was still entertaining enough to get 3 stars out of 5.