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The fictionalized story of Daniel, the son of Paul and Rochelle Isaacson, who were executed as Soviet spies in the 1950s. As a graduate student in New York in the 1960s, Daniel is involved in the antiwar protest movement and contrasts his experiences to the memory of his parents and his belief that they were wrongfully convicted. Written by
Michael C. Berch <email@example.com>
Good actors courting disaster...a melodramatic, infernal mess
"Daniel" should have been an intricate, devastating account of ruined lives, another "Long Day's Journey into Night". With director Sidney Lumet at the helm and great actors on-board, audiences in 1983 were probably expecting a masterpiece. The first problem with this film about the traumatized American son and daughter of internationally-scandalized parents--convicted and put to death for spying for the Soviets in the 1950s--belongs in its own scenario; screenwriter E. L. Doctorow, adapting his novel "The Book of Daniel", and Lumet made a big fuss over the lineage of their piece, claiming it was in no way a portrait of real-life executed spies, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who left behind two sons. Of course it is, which makes all the dropped hints and 'fictionalized' details that much more annoying. A second problem--and a much larger one--lies in Doctorow's writing, which shuts the audience out early on. "Daniel" isn't a witty or chatty examination of past-and-present events; it's a dirge-like tale that holds any sort of clever banter in contempt. Lumet loves shouting actors on the screen, and here he keeps everyone hollering until there's nothing left to listen to (and nothing to look at except pained expressions). Timothy Hutton is miscast as Daniel; Mandy Patinkin, Lindsay Crouse, Ellen Barkin and Amanda Plummer are all wasted on unplayable material. * from ****
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