Thursday, 18 February 2016
In the recent trend of "based on actual Hollywood events" films, Trumbo more resembles 2012's Hitchcock than 2011's My Week With Marilyn but is even less successful or convincing than Anthony Hopkins' prosthetics were in that former film about the making of Psycho.
Bryan Cranston plays the infamous screenwriter Dalton Trumbo whose Communist Party affiliations saw him and fellow screen scribes on the outer during the early days of the Cold War. Unable to officially work for the studios, Trumbo produced some of his best work -- Roman Holiday, The Brave One, Spartacus -- under pseudonyms, much to the chagrin of Commie-haters and hunters like celebrity gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren).
Presumably it is the film's look at a dark period in Hollywood's history and how art triumphed over conservatism which has provided director Jay Roach's film, adapted by John McNamara from a book by Bruce Cook, somewhat of a free pass but it really is hard to fathom why Cranston has been in the thick of awards season. Or maybe voters are just big Breaking Bad fans? Either way, in a lacklustre year for Best Actor, this is the least impressive performance among them.
And Helen Mirren's SAG nomination is even more of a mystery. A bad American accent and popping in and out of the drama like one of the nasty aunts from TV's Bewitched, her Hedda Hopper-cum-patriotic warrior is more akin to a salacious scribe from Potter world's The Daily Prophet; Mirren's millinery more magical than her performance.
Perhaps if the film had focused on one particular instance -- like the writing of Spartacus -- rather than spanning four decades and hitting biographical plot points to little dramatic effect, Trumbo would have been both more entertaining and politically punchier.