Cranston Brings Real Life Writer “Trumbo” To The Silver Screen

By Scott Kurland

Film: Trumbo
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, Michael Stuhlbarg, Diane Lane, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning,  Alan Tudyk, and John Goodman
Rated: R
Director: Jay Roach

McCarthyism. It was a time of bullying, witch hunts, and in all honesty it destroyed the lives of thousands of hard working Americans who wanted  nothing but equality. Joseph McCarthy’s blacklist destroyed the lives of directors, producers, and screenwriter; all in the name of protecting America and keep us safe. However, no screenwriter or directors were Soviet spies. They were just honest working Americans that felt if they were getting paid thousands of dollars to make movies, their construction crews, electricians, carpenters, etc deserved the same wage. You may be asking yourself why am I bringing this all up? Well this week’s film is “Trumbo”, the true story of Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted screenwriter who broke the system. Let’s find out if it’s any good shall we?

“Trumbo” takes place from 1947 all the way through 1971. Bryan Cranston stars as Dalton Trumbo, famed screenwriter and social pariah. Trumbo’s views of equal pay for all Americans and his known affiliation with the communist party draws the attention of Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren). Hopper is a part of McCarthy’s House Un-Americans Activies Committee and is convinced Trumbo is the problem. After a failed McCarthy hearing in 1949 Trumbo is blacklisted by MGM, and sentenced to two years in prison for being in contempt of court. After a few years in prison Trumbo is released back into a new world, a world where he is unable to write. Trumbo does find a way to do the only thing he loves, screenwriting. Trumbo's plan is to go to a struggling studio that makes bad films; and have his crew of blacklisted writers write under aliases. Does Trumbo thwart Hopper and get his name back or is America just too scared of McCarthyism?

I never thought I’d see the day where the director of “Austin Powers in Goldmember” would make an Oscar worthy film. I am shocked at how Jay Roach has transformed himself into this famed political director. I saw his two HBO films “Recount” and “Game Change”, but I thought nothing of it because it was HBO. Then Roach makes “Trumbo” and this is a real game changer for him. Roach captures the era, the intrigue, and even the fear that was the 1950s. Roach takes John McNamara’s screenplay and morphs it into a thing of beauty. McNamara is a bit like Roach in regard to the fact  he’s not a political screenwriter. McNamara wrote for “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” and “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.” As you can see McNamara isn’t one to fight the establishment; however, his partnership with Roach has lead to a remarkable film.

I’m predicting this award season that if DiCaprio isn’t less then phenomenal in “The Revenant”, Cranston will still all his accolades. Cranston is almost as Legendary as Trumbo. Cranston is another guy who started in comedy and slowly transformed into the dramatic actor we know him today. Cranston is probably my favorite male actor this year. His turn as Trumbo is just incredible to watch. You have this man, this fantastically gifted writer, who lives and breathes screenwriting. Everything is taken away from him, but he has to write because it’s all he knows. Cranston convincingly and with great urgency shows that pain resulting from not being able to write. Then when he can write it’s making slop films about big breasted women and men who lust for them. Somehow Cranston shows us a Trumbo who rather be a writer of smut; then fade away because Heda Hopper said so. Cranston honors Trumbo with the best male performance of 2015.

This is a film with a star studded and gifted cast, Elle Fanning, Louis C.K., Michael Stuhlbarg. Yet the two strongest performances (next to Cranston of course), are Lane and Mirren. These are two very contrasting roles to say the least. Mirren has to be over the top  and extremely villainous as Hopper. Heda Hopper like McCarthy used fear and manipulation to control Hollywood. If you aren’t a film historian or know the history of Hollywood this is strange to learn. Why is this control over the film industry so bizarre? Because Hopper wasn’t even a studio head, she had no right to make decisions like this. Hopper was a gossip columnist after being a failed actress. She used said column and her power in Hollywood to run and frighten studios. Mirren is deliciously evil as Hopper, and at times I found myself terrified of this woman. What was she capable of? What is she willing to do to get her way? Do we want to wait around and see her real power? These were all question I asked myself in the screening. The answer to these questions are as follows. Anything, she’s capable of anything. Whatever it takes to get the job done and fill her agenda she will do. Finally, do we want to wait around and see her real power? NO! Mirren is so over the top and wicked that it’s pure joy to watch her on screen.

If Mirren gave a larger than life performance, then Diane Lane gives the most subtle performance of the film. Cleo Trumbo is Dalton’s long suffering wife. Most of the film Lane must sell her performance with facial expressions and very little dialogue. At first I found this off putting. I was thinking, “Damnit Jay, you have Diane Lane use her.” Then I realized that Lane was being used, Cleo Trumbo was like the tea kettle of the Trumbo family. She goes through so much heat, and valiantly deals with the fire that’s underneath her family. She takes this for years, and finally when enough is enough she lets out this explosive monologue that steals the film. Lane is the unsung hero of “Trumbo", Cranston is the All-Star but Lane is the MVP.

“Trumbo”  is hands down one of the best films of 2015. Honestly it is a real triumph. With all the turmoil and chaos in the world “Trumbo” can really show us what fear and hatred can lead to if we’re not careful. Roach has crafted a beautiful film. Cranston leads this fabulous cast to glory, and the story is dark at times but the theme of hope that is present on screen is just overwhelmingly beautiful. “Trumbo” is a must see film and come award season you’re going to see it nominated for a lot, I can just sense it. I highly recommend “Trumbo” to everyone old and young.

scott kurlandComment