(Lainey: a new trailer for Trumbo was released yesterday. Some people think Bryan Cranston could be a contender. He’s so well liked in Hollywood. And he would be the answer if voters don’t want to reward Eddie Redmayne two years in a row, can’t stand Johnny Depp, continue to deny Leo, and if Fassbender won’t play. Here’s Joanna’s review from TIFF. The trailer is embedded below.)
If you look at the name Trumbo quickly, it resembles Turbo, one of Ryan Reynolds’ bigger hits about a snail who learns to race. However, Trumbo has more in common with Turbo than letters; it also maintains a sense of sluggish smugness.
Based on the true story of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo’s (Bryan Cranston) life before, during and after being blacklisted for his political beliefs or assumed Communist associations, this movie is very proud of itself and its sarcastic asides. Except, despite sharing John Goodman and being set in Hollywood, Trumbo is not as good as Argo. Cranston’s Trumbo, who mostly writes in his bathtub to the disdain of his wife Cleo (Diane Lane) and daughter Nikola (Elle Fanning), is such a brilliant writer that he cannot help but boast about his own greatness. It’s this attitude, you learn, that got him through his prison sentence after he refused to name names.
Trumbo ghostwrote Roman Holiday and later achieved success through his scripts for Exodus and Spartacus in spite of any interference from Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren), one of the country’s most notorious gossip columnists. Think Richard Johnson before he was even a thing, or a campier, vampier Liz Smith. Here, Helen Mirren plays a stock sassy broad, not dissimilar from her role in 2012’s Hitchcock.
The film is light on politics, and heavy on smirks. Instead of taking a stand against the Hollywood blacklist, it just shows Trumbo’s secret-then-not-so-secret triumph and ego. It’s a disappointing effort from Jay Roach, who is one of our more interesting political satirists. Roach’s resume includes comic romps like Austin Powers and Meet the Parents, and then masterclass HBO nailbiters like Game Change and Recount. This is the type of cinematic diversity that Hollywood needs to encourage, but his effort here is merely so-so. Roach is still able to get a great performance out of Cranston, who is fantastic in everything, but the film’s tone feels out of place and its second act drags on for way too long. It’s more The Campaign and Dinner for Schmucks than Game Change.
The film seems afraid to speak up about Trumbo’s anguish, and fall from grace, and keeps everything on the surface. Where’s the “Argo F--- Yourself” moment? What about the fun, outside of the mugging to the camera? Trumbo is a good movie that could have been great.