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sábado, 7 de novembro de 2015

Review: Bryan Cranston in ‘Trumbo,’ as a Screenwriter in a Hollywood Under Siege

In “Trumbo,” an ill-conceived take on one of the most famous targets of the Hollywood blacklist, the writer Dalton Trumbo clenches a cigarette holder that juts in the air like a sword. Given that he’s played by Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”), you have hopes that Trumbo will soon be making like Errol Flynn and dashing and slashing through the movie, giving it verve, excitement. The real Trumbo (1905-1976) was a pistol. A baker-intellectual turned industry insider, he was funny, barbed and wildly prolific, with screen credits that range from “Kitty Foyle” to “Spartacus.” He was also a Communist, which for many made him a traitor, the Devil, no more than a terrorist.
Part biopic, part historical gloss, “Trumbo” tells a great-man story with a patchwork of fact and fiction, mixing in the odd bit of newsreel with a great many dull, visually flat and poorly lighted dramatic scenes. Written by John McNamara and directed by Jay Roach, it opens in 1947 in Los Angeles, where, in between shouts of “Action!” and “Cut!” and the usual wheeling and dealing, Hollywood is coming under siege. That was the year that the House Un-American Activities Committee held hearings in both Los Angeles and Washington to look into Communist doings. Witnesses were summoned, including the famed Hollywood 10 — Trumbo among them — who refused to testify, were deemed “unfriendly,” cited for contempt of Congress, fined, sentenced and jailed. 
Video

Interview: Bryan Cranston

The actor discusses playing the screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in “Trumbo.”
 By MEKADO MURPHY on Publish DateSeptember 17, 2015. Photo by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Bleecker Street. Watch in Times Video »
This is the backdrop for the movie, which routinely casts an eye at the big political picture but prefers to narrow in on the more personal story of Trumbo’s struggles at home and at work. To that end there’s the domestic soap involving his loyal, loving, blandly conceived wife, Cleo (Diane Lane), and their three children. Oddly, the eldest, Niki (Madison Wolfe plays her until Elle Fanning steps in), ends up having more narrative and emotional weight than Cleo. Niki’s prominence smacks of a screenwriting contrivance, mostly as a way to paint Trumbo as someone who remained a loving family man despite his ordeals, but too often when he explains stuff to his daughter (Dad, are you a Communist?) the filmmakers are obviously explaining stuff to the audience.
It’s rotten when a movie for grown-ups talks to its audience as if it were a child. Then again, with its wall-to-wall caricatures, its bellowing and mugging (including from Mr. Cranston) and historical reductivism, “Trumbo” sometimes evokes an old Looney Tunes sendup of Tinsel Town, though without the beauty, wit, visual style or economy. Some of the bellowers offer welcome relief, notably John Goodman as Frank King, one of the B-movie independents, who with his brother Hymie (Stephen Root) gives Trumbo work when the establishment refuses to. Mr. Goodman gooses the movie to life, as does Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper, the gossip queen who here, ridiculously, becomes the embodiment of everything that stinks in Hollywood, never mind the titans who ran it.
It’s impossible to tell if the filmmakers don’t trust the audience or simply don’t have the chops, guts or heart to do this story justice. The blacklist remains vital and lamentably topical, and it’s clear why someone thought it was a good time to pull Trumbo back into the limelight. But the man who helped give us “Gun Crazy,” an American masterpiece, among many other titles, deserves a smarter portrait. The movie doesn’t just dumb down history, it also elides and slides over critical milestones, both personal and public, as well as the complex ideological divides that turned friends into enemies. Its Trumbo is a charmer who wears his contradictions so lightly you might not notice them, despite the occasional ribbing from his friends. You have to wonder if the real Trumbo would recognize him.


“Trumbo” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for sexual references. Running time: 2 hours 4 minutes.

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