THE MOVIE THEATER — Given the current technological and political environment concerning the First Amendment and right to protected speech, it is easy to believe we are in an entirely unique time in American history.
I was surprised to find that within my own lifetime, the U.S. has struggled dramatically with this issue. “The Post,” directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, is the story of how The Washington Post at the time of the Pentagon Papers went from being considered a local newspaper to a publication that changed the political landscape and became a standard of American journalism.
The story told in “The Post” is a fascinating, but quickly forgotten moment in U.S. history, reminding us how easy it is to repeat history if we fail to remember our past.
There was a lot to like about “The Post,” and few things the movie could have done better:
What it got right:
When your head coach is Steven Spielberg and your first string is Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, you're going to get great ball. Both actors and most supporting actors did a fantastic job throughout this film. Given the difficulty of the roles, I would say Streep may have edged out Hanks in believability and nuance as the better actor.
I saw things in Streep's performance that felt so effortless and intuitive, you could easily forget she was pretending to be someone else. For Hanks, it wasn't much different, although, I found his performance to feel a little more forced — mostly because of the weight he put on his accent and delivery. I know these criticisms sound a lot like saying Michael Jordan had a bad night scoring 28 points rather than 36. At their worst, Streep and Hanks are consistently better than most, and this was definitely not their worst work.
Whether by necessity or choice, there were so many fleeting scenes in this film that I wanted to breathe in for a little longer. Sometimes there was so much information and beauty contained in a single shot it was easy to miss its bigger significance.
This may sound weird for a hurriedly-put-together period piece from the ‘70s, but that is the genius of Spielberg and a great cast and crew. The visual storytelling is another layer of information altogether in this film, with shots set up almost like renaissance paintings designed to tell an entire story beginning to end in a single static image. This is made all the more impressive by the fact this movie was made in a relatively short period of time.
What could have been better:
Considering the subject matter and coming so soon after the 2016 presidential election, it was clear that the movie was rushed into production to preserve its relevance and have the biggest impact possible. Even though the message was clear and the story told expertly, there was a sense that some things were put together quickly.
One small clue to this is the fact that this was a '70s period piece and a chunk of the cast of Netflix’s '70s drama “Mind Hunter” was cast in small supporting roles. My guess is they had the look and were ready to be plugged in at key spots without a lot of prep. A bigger indicator that the film was rushed to production is the script didn’t feel as polished as I think we are used to with Spielberg, a lot of it felt off the shelf or just good enough at times.
There was a particular scene showing U.S. troops in the Vietnam War as they were engaged in a firefight and it looked almost like a cliché of every Vietnam war movie ever made in the '80s on a small budget. I think given a little more time, this film would have been polished and smoothed to the point nothing would have been out of place.
Timely message delivered from the wrong era
The message was clear and important, but it lacks the relatability to reach the generation that is going to pick up the cause. This story took place in my lifetime, and I still had a difficult time relating to it. I believe if a master storyteller like Spielberg had taken a little more time to tell the story in a language a younger generation spoke more fluently, this message could have carried further. There is no doubt Spielberg knows how to communicate to youth considering his movies have defined a generation of childhood experience.
The important movie no one will see
Even though this film is up for at least three Golden Globe nominations and getting early Oscar buzz, it will likely be that movie you know is good and should probably see, but likely won’t. There is always at least one movie like this every year, and I am afraid this year it may be “The Post.”
I would recommend this film to anyone who wants to see a timely drama crafted by experts, but won’t entirely blame you if you if you decided to put your entertainment dollars to something a little more exciting. The biggest weakness of this film is that it is an important story that needs to be told and understood by many, but likely won’t find the audience it needs to make the difference it should.