Posts Tagged ‘biopic’

The writer and the Red Scare: ‘Trumbo’ looks at the man who defied Congress and won two Academy Awards in the process

December 28, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 28, 2015

Director Jay Roach’s lively new biopic, Trumbo, tells the story of a leftist Hollywood screenwriter and his tangle with the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Veteran actor Bryan Cranston (the star of the acclaimed TV series Breaking Bad, who had minor roles in Argo and Godzilla) headlines the movie as title character Dalton Trumbo. A labor activist and American Communist Party member, he also happened to be one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters.

Trumbo’s story tracks what I know about the actual historic events, which a few web searches seem to confirm. America’s pivot from World War II to the Cold War meant that the Soviet Union, our allies in the crusade against Nazi Germany, quickly became our enemies in the sublimated struggle for world domination. Although fairly sudden, this change in relations between American and other Western Allies and the Soviet Union was very real — recall if you will Churchill’s famous “Iron Curtain” speech from March 1946. And it prompted some Americans to focus their animus on the sociopolitical philosophy of Communism, a dynamic that went on to cause a tremendous amount of needless harm.

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‘Love and Mercy’ unevenly charts the personal struggles of the Beach Boys’ musical genius

July 10, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 10, 2015

Love and Mercy is the uneven new biopic about Brian Wilson, the brilliant but troubled musician who helped propel the Beach Boys to the heights of stardom in the 1960s.

The story unfolds on two tracks, not unlike Woman in Gold, another recent movie based on real events. In the 1960s and 1970s, Wilson, played by Paul Dano, wrangles with his occasionally baffled brothers, cousin and other bandmates about the direction of the band, which has already hit it big. He also fights with his manipulative father, Murry Wilson (Bill Camp). Murry, who is separated from Brian’s mother, openly berates his sons for having fired him as the Beach Boys’ manager, and he denigrates Brian’s musical experimentation. Brian, torn by these stresses, begins dabbling with hallucinogenic drugs and starts losing control of his life.

These scenes are intercut with a separate storyline — it seems to be set in the late 1980s — in which we see Wilson after he’s bottomed out due to mental illness and substance abuse. The main story here involves Wilson’s tentative romance with car saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks). Ledbetter is baffled by the extent to which Wilson has surrendered control of his life to a manipulative father figure — in this case, a malevolent psychiatrist named Gene Landy (Paul Giamatti).

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The intriguing biopic ‘Theory of Everything’ is marred by an unearned upbeat ending

December 28, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 28, 2014

The Theory of Everything, English director James Marsh’s new feature, is a domestic drama that documents the romantic and marital relationship between Jane and Stephen Hawking.

Marsh and his screenwriter, Anthony McCarten, working off of Jane Hawking’s memoir, begin their tale in 1963 at Cambridge University in England, where he is a brand-new doctoral candidate in physics and she is studying medieval European poetry (apparently as an undergraduate). There’s an instant attraction between the pair, played by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, when they spot each other at a party.

The fair-haired scientist is barely bold enough to act upon it and start chatting up the pretty brunette. (Barely — at evening’s end, Jane walks off but then dashes back and hands Stephen a napkin with her phone number scribbled on it.) After some stalling, the atheistic Stephen intercepts Jane, a devout Anglican, outside church one Sunday morning and invites her to his family’s home for lunch. Jane tolerates his quirky, brilliant and opinionated father and siblings (Stephen’s mom seems to be perfectly agreeable) before consenting to go to a spring ball with him after he announces to his kin that she’s already agreed to be his date.

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