Friday, December 28, 2018

Vice [2018]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L) (1 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (B. Tallarico) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Vice [2018] (written and directed by Adam McKay) a film about the very private / secretive GW Bush-era V.P. Dick Cheney (played in the film by Christian Bale) did not seem to me nearly as coherent in both theme and content as McKay's previous laser-sharp / damning cinematic exposé (on the 2008 Financial Crisis) The Big Short [2015]

It seems clear to me that McKay initially intended the film to be an i-s dotted /t-s crossed damning hatchet job against the former V.P.  BUT either he himself flinched as he started to truly understand his subject matter, Cheney, or perhaps he was ordered to stand-down "a bit" by the studios / their lawyers  (I'd go with the former explanation, with McKay realizing that Cheney was far more human / lamentable, less simply "Evil," than he had initially believed). 

In any case, the Cheney here who emerges is something of a human mess, whose decision guiding principles were limited, perhaps quite severely, by his own intellectual and perhaps even physical limitations / short-comings.  So ... in an Administration, GW Bush's, not known for its intellectual prowness, he was one of its brighter lights / beacons, BUT ... that wasn't necessarily saying much, and yet ... could he honestly have done any better?

Let me explain.  We are told that Dick Cheney, growing-up in the cattle-ranching state of Wyoming, began his young adulthood first getting accepted and then quickly flunking-out of the East Coast Ivy League University of Yale.  Why he got there at all was through the help / connections of his future wife Lynne (played in the film by Amy Adams).  Lynne, convinced that as a woman still of her 1960s generation she could not "be somebody" on her own, felt that she needed at least her husband to be "somebody."  At the time Dick looked apparently like a lug, but a BIG (homecoming quarterback-like) LUG, so ... she wasn't necessarily choosing her man in this regard badly.  He just needed to be encouraged, pushed-forward to ... "become the man" that she hoped for.  (This kind of thinking is, perhaps thankfully, becoming "old hat." BUT ... back in the Dick and Lynne Cheney's young adult years, that actually still made a lot of sense.  Women back then did become (or at least hoped to become) "somebodies" through their men).

Through another connection of Lynne and her family, Dick Cheney got an internship in Washington D.C. to work in Congress, and meeting among other people, a young "North shore" Illinois Republican Donald Rumsfeld (played in the film by Steve Carrell) THIS TIME, HE NEVER LOOKED BACK.

But ... Dick, never a particularly sharp tool, came to learn TO PARROT (very well) the ideology and  values of the people around him (in his case ... that of Nixonian republicans).  As a result his values came to be LOYALTY, SMALL GOVERNMENT, and a questionable increasingly dogmatic belief in the UNITARY POWER OF THE EXECUTIVE (basically that the President simply because he was President could do no wrong or at least could not be held to account, except _perhaps_ by the ballot box).   How such a view would work inside a Party "of small government" is remarkable.  However one supposes, going back to essentially A KING _could_ make "government" "smaller" ;-).

And the rest of the story then follows...

Now fascinatingly, those three pillars of Cheney's political ideology, DON'T necessarily point in the same direction all the time.  So there are honestly surprises, moving surprises in this film.  And Cheney was ALSO famously limited by his own health issues.

The result is ... perhaps a film about a "good old boy" who went, WAY, WAY HIGHER than anyone with his capacities / limitations really should have.

So ... what to finally say of the film?  It's something of a mess, but ... it gives Viewers, perhaps, a lot to think about as they go home.  So a decent enough, if not exactly great job.

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