Published on November 20th, 2015 | by Ian M. Woodington1
What is it that makes, not a great, but even a good biopic? It is certainly no enviable task, trying to condense decades of a person’s life into a mere two hours. Choosing what to keep and what to leave, stringing events together so that they feel as though they are one complete narrative opposed to a series of vignettes. And then there are the inevitable purists who will write off the entire product based on a single detail either left out or composited due to running time or budgetary restrictions. Over the years, I have found myself wrestling with my opinion of Braveheart. Do I enjoy it for its epic qualities, or do I cast it aside as the wretched historical inaccuracies fly in the face of what is one of the most important times in a country’s past?
The answer is simply, and stolen from another great historical epic, are you not entertained? Film can and should be powerful and informative. It can and should influence our thinking and encourage an emotional response, but above all, it should entertain. Trumbo does all of the above, ticks all the necessary boxes on the list of what makes a great biopic and whatever historical inaccuracies lie within be damned. Director Jay Roach, writer John McNamara and an ensemble so good it has to be seen to be believed have made, if not the best biopic of the year (that distinction still stays with Steve Jobs for now), then certainly the most enjoyable.
Where I find myself in reviewing Trumbo is trying not to sound monotonous in singing its high praises. Whether you’re interested in a message or not, because there is a good one in there, it’s a film that demands to be seen just on the strength of the cohesiveness that comes from the writing, the acting and (I still can’t believe I’m about to write this about the man who made all three Austin Powers movies) the directing.
I could prattle on endlessly about how overwhelmingly good this cast is, but the names speak for themselves. Bryan Cranston showcases that he is not just the best thing on television, but also a big-screen powerhouse. Helen Mirren, in her inimitable fashion and with beautiful understatement, is a force to be reckoned with, seething venom and self-righteousness. Louis C.K. finally breaks out of his stand-up comic persona to give a truly heartfelt performance played with surprisingly restrained vulnerability. The chemistry between him and Bryan Cranston will no doubt leave you wanting more. And John Goodman… well, it’s John Goodman. He continues to prove that no matter how small a part he has to play, it will stay with you long after you’ve left the theater. Hands down, and these are only four out of a dozen terrific performances, there hasn’t been an ensemble this stunning since L.A. Confidential.
It should also be mentioned that Michael Stuhlbarg, David James Elliott and Dean O’Gorman, who portray Edward G. Robinson, John Wayne and Kirk Douglas respectively, are unquestionably destined to go down as the unsung heroes of Trumbo. Their efforts, not just to imitate but to fully realize these Hollywood stars of a by-gone era, are a further complement to inspired casting and commitment to honoring the lives of the people portrayed on screen.
In short (and well done for making it this far through monotonous and truly well-deserved praise), if you have to see one film this Thanksgiving season that doesn’t star Tom Hardy as England’s notorious Kray brothers, see Trumbo.
5 out of 5
Review by Jennifer Fiduccia
Trumbo is a new film released by Groundswell Productions. The cast
includes Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo, Michael Stuhlbarg as Edward G
Robinson, Diane Lane as Cleo Trumbo, Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper, David
James Elliot as John Wayne, Louis CK as Arlen Hird, John Goodman as
Frank King, and Elle Fanning as Niki Trumbo, along with many others.
I didn’t think this was going to be a very interesting movie, or that I
would like it as much as I did, when I watched the previews.
I am very happy to report that I was entirely wrong.
The acting was superb, and the job that Bryan Cranston did with his role
of Dalton Trumbo was really, REALLY good. I loved Diane Lane as Cleo
Trumbo (his wife) and Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper, failing actress,
played the part well enough that I actually disliked her.
The movie centers around “The Hollywood Ten” a group of ten Hollywood
writers and directors that are blacklisted for being Communists, in the
Dalton Trumbo is the head of a union and outspoken about workers’ rights
to be paid more fairly, causing the House Committee on un-American
Activities to look at him more closely, and then blacklist him.
Trumbo fights back, along with other writers in the Hollywood Ten, by
writing under pseudonyms and having his work directed time & time again
under names other than his own.
The story shows the ridiculousness of the hysteria of the times, and
portrays Trumbo’s fight for justice and equality.
I never knew that this actually occurred in Hollywood, as it was quite
before my time, but I found the film to be very very entertaining. The
movie made me think, it made me laugh, it made me angry, and it made me
It is a great look back on the history of the film industry, and a firm
reminder (as if we need on in this day and age) of how people get
carried away in their efforts to make things right “as they see them”.
There was a moment in the movie near the end when Dalton Trumbo is
finally recognized as the actual writer of a movie that won a Golden
Globe Award, which he had written under a pseudonym, and Hetta Hopper is
shown with a look on her face as if the whole world is crumbling around
her, and that everything she was living for and working towards, was
being shot to hell. It WAS being shot to hell, but the point is, is that
it’s ridiculous for one set of people to be able to persecute and harass
another set of people to the point where it
ruins their lives.
I would highly recommend this film.
I would give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars