Trumbo DVD Review
There's nothing Hollywood loves more than a tale about the wronged getting final justice.
So, coupled with the fact that this tale takes that and wraps it up in the past of one of its own, and you could see how Trumbo would be a shoo-in for awards season with its prestige veneer and stand-out performance by its lead.
Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston plays Dalton Trumbo, an American screen-writer and heavyweight of the industry in this biopic which follows Trumbo's ostracism from the Hollywood community because of his political beliefs.
In 1947, Trumbo was put on the Blacklist and ultimately jailed for his beliefs, before entering the Hollywood community again under a veil of secrecy.
Predominantly known for his comedy films like Austin Powers and Meet The Fockers, director Jay Roach heads down the traditional path for the genre, choosing to recreate a myriad of scenes and moments from Trumbo's life.
Consequently, the almost made for TV film occasionally feels like it's too choppy and frenetic with the areas it decides to land on; it's an odd idea and rather than simply concentrating on one particular time-span or thread, there are parts which feel massively underdeveloped and characters which go to waste. Chief among these is Trumbo's long-suffering wife Diane Lane, who simply shows to offer support before crumbling. Granted, by concentrating solely on the domestic stress of dealing with the idealistic approach to the Red Menace and Trumbo's exorcism the film would have felt over-blown, but there are plenty of dramatic fruits to be successfully mined here.
Thankfully, it's Cranston's actorly portrayal of the clearly witty and urbane Trumbo that helps propel the film along. He's clearly having a ball with his pronounced intonations delivering lines that are of a Noel Coward withering nature ("I'd say go on, but you will" just being one of the examples) He delivers the film's script with a dazzling theatricality that's called for that helps elevate the rather average ideas and execution from its own intentions.
There are moments when Trumbo becomes a film of characters and impersonations - chiefly Helen Mirren's harpie horrible Hedda Hopper and Dean O'Gorman's double-take Kirk Douglas - but it's in the execution of the spoken word and the recreation of the era that Trumbo excels. (Plus John Goodman's appearance adds a great deal of vim in the back as movie mogul Frank King, a peddler of B grade trash that Trumbo finds himself writing for)
Perhaps the criticism for this tale is that the choice of canvas is too wide and given the bath-dwelling Trumbo's a rich source for the plucking, it could have paid dividends in its final fight back against his vilification.
While Trumbo gained two Oscars writing under nom-de-plumes or selling the work to others as it was the right thing to do, the moment when he's welcomed back among his own, unfortunately lacks quite the emotional punch that it needs to resonate.
All in all though, Trumbo is a small triumph; had it chosen to hone in a little more on some key moments in his bath-dwelling life, it could have soared a lot higher than it actually does.