In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood's top screenwriter, until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood's top screenwriter, until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood's top screenwriter, until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.
The time period itself is difficult to portray without seeming to be caricature - or perhaps style and communication have changed so much in 65 years that it just seems like caricature. Added to that difficulty are portrayals of John Wayne and Kirk Douglas, legends of film that, as a young person, I may have gone my whole life subconsciously thinking of as only existing on screen. Trumbo mostly rises to the occasion.
Much of Trumbo is comedic, and with intention, but the film also carries a certain amount of poignancy, if maybe a little less than it could use given the subject matter. Bryan Cranston is incredibly enjoyable to watch, and during the credits you get to watch a clip of the real Trumbo to compare. The portrayal is jarringly realistic (something you may question for the entirety of the film). Helen Mirren is a worthy antagonist, and very effectively displays the fear and anger that result from war - the need to dehumanize the enemy in order to survive the loss you feel as your family is fighting thousands of miles across the world, the need to justify pain through rigid ideology.
Other notable performances come from Michael Stuhlbarg, whose character, Eddie, provides for much of the films poignancy, and Diane Lane as the quiet but strong Cleo Trumbo, the rock of her family. John Goodman, is well cast as the comedic used car salesman of film, and Elle Fanning makes her mark as the rebellious daughter learning to be every bit of a force as her father.
It would be unfair to pin the failings of the film on a single person, but Louis C. K. continues to prove that being a great comedian does not make you a great actor. His portrayal is, in fact, so flat that it pulls you out of immersion in the film, a flaw that is further exacerbated by Bryan Cranston's mastery. Scenes between the two are simply absurd.
As a whole, the film's laughs are well earned and its feelings are well felt. Where the film falls short is to evoke, without personal reflection, the so obvious parallels between the state of our country today and that of the film. But perhaps that is not the goal. Perhaps the goal was to, with a bit of fun, portray a larger than life writer who decided to take on the world...and won. In that, Trumbo is a great success.
- Nov 13, 2015