Tuesday, December 1, 2015
ChicagoTribune (R. Keegan) review
RogerEbert.com (G. Cheshire) review
AVClub (T. Robinson) review
Trumbo  (directed by Jay Roach, screenplay by John McNamara based on the book [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Bruce Cook [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) tells the story of American novelist / Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo [wikip] [IMDb] (played in the film by Bryan Cranston) during his "blacklisted years" in the 1950s for having been a member of the Communist Party in the 1940s.
To be honest, as a son of Czech immigrants who fled Communist Czechoslovakia and even named Zdeněk after an uncle of mine who was jailed by the Communists in the 1950s this was not a particularly easy film for to watch or write about as I am quite well versed in the fates of democrats / priests / artists / intellectuals who were jailed or even executed as "class enemies" during the 1950s in then quite Stalinist Communist Czechoslovakia. The Evil of the Communists was real ...
And yet I do understand AND EMPATHIZE WITH Dalton Trumbo's story HERE as well. There's the lovely and indeed THE GOSPEL idealism of _theoretical_ "let's share and share alike" Communism and then there's the "for God's sake BE SURE TO APPLAUD LONG AND LOUD ENOUGH the 'Great Leader' (who can KILL YOU if you don't)" of de facto MAFIA Communism of actual Soviet bloc history. Trumbo never experienced actual, incarnate, (Soviet bloc) Communism. I giggle with amusement at the thought of him trying to plug THOROUGHLY "petite bourgeois" silliness of the Audrey Hepburn / Gregory Peck staring Roman Holiday  to a committee of apparatchiks at the Soviet Film Bureau of the time. Perhaps he could have pulled it off. There is certainly "class consciousness" in the film. But he would have almost certainly been "steered in a different direction" (OR ELSE ...) to write about "the joys of collective farm life ..." instead.
What he did, of course, experience is the "free market" mafia style bullying of the right wing / Fascist sort: "We Americans had no gulags, we just destroyed people's careers through gossip, boycotts and other intimidation (and with that thoroughly destroyed their marriages, families and lives)."
SO IT WAS AN ABSOLUTE JOY TO WATCH Trumbo THOROUGHLY UNDERMINING THE HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST by simply writing _under pseudonyms_ (though being paid MUCH LESS ... as a result). THE GUY WON TWO ACADEMY AWARDS (!) FOR SCREENWRITING WHILE _NOMINALLY_ BEING "BLACKLISTED." ANYONE who has a _sense of humor_ and LOVES A GOOD STORY / "UNDERDOG" HAS TO LOVE THAT ;-) ;-)
But the film ALSO shows VERY WELL the personal suffering that both HE and HIS FAMILY went through during the Blacklist years, when all kinds of people (business associates, neighbors, random passersbys) _hated him_ (and his family) for his "being a Communist." Diane Lane who plays Trumbo's WIFE Cleo in the film honestly deserves special mention (and possibly an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress) here. It's honestly remarkable that their marriage survived those years of humiliation / _downward_ mobility (from a Hollywood style mansion to a random nondescript little house in the suburbs).
Anyway, a remarkable story, and I would note that Trumbo's speech to the Hollywood Screen Writers Guild in 1970 presented at the end of the film was echoed later by former playwright post-Communist Czech President Vaclav Havel after HIS DECADES of ignonymity / "black listing" and "toilet washing in the Prague subway" were over:
Both Trumbo and Havel were magnanimous after their overcoming of their respective suffering noting that the Evil that they did suffer WHILE REAL WAS ALSO SYSTEMIC. There were no "good people" or particularly "evil people" about, ONLY VICTIMS who largely said / did what the circumstances compelled them to do. BOTH NOTED THAT PRETTY MUCH EVERYBODY BENEFITED (at least partly) NAVIGATING THESE SYSTEMS WHICH ALSO OPPRESSED THEM ...
Anyway Trumbo's is a great story ... and one which anyone who's had to "weave and duck" in life to survive would certainly appreciate. Good job!
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