By Christian DiMartino
Before I get cracking on Trumbo, I need to get something off of my chest: I have never seen Breaking Bad. Yes, I said it. So, I really only know Bryan Cranston’s work on Malcolm in the Middle, and his brief stints in movies like Argo and TV shows like Seinfeld. I know, shame on me.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to most of you that he completely knocks it out of the park in Trumbo. He’s surrounded by a great cast that includes Diane Lane, Michael Stuhlbarg, Louis CK, Elle Fanning, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Alan Tudyk, and many others, and yet none of them really compare. Don’t get me wrong, the supporting performances work. But this is his show.
Trumbo focuses on Oscar winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. What makes him so special? Well, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.
Trumbo was living the American dream: he was writing movies, constantly, he has a nice home, a wonderful wife Cleo (Lane) and kids. But all of that came to a crashing halt when he was blacklisted by pretty much everyone for being a Communist. He was imprisoned, and simply, nobody wanted to work with him.
Being blacklisted didn’t stop him though. Since he was no longer able to write for A-listers, he began writing B-movies (Goodman plays the B-movie producer), but under different names, to avoid harassment. From then on, he slowly began climbing back into prestigious pictures again, such as Roman Holiday and so on.
On another note, Mirren shows up as a tabloid gossiper. Not only that, she desperately tries to take Trumbo down. I don’t know what her damage is. Maybe she just isn’t a fan of the “commie bastard,” as one would put it.
Trumbo is directed by Jay Roach, which is kind of odd but also kind of makes sense. Roach is mostly known for his comedies, like Austin Powers or Meet the Parents. But lately he has switched it up, with political dramas like the excellent HBO film Game Change and what not. There are some witty moments here, but yet I could never really buy into this film dramatically. But yet it isn’t exactly a comedy either. Hmm. Maybe I’m just weird.
Roach does captures the 40s and 50s almost perfectly, and what he has made here is richly entertaining. I have always been one for movies about movies, so of course I found that aspect fun. I would say if I had to compare it to any other biopic, it would be Hitchcock from 2012, and not even because it also starred Mirren. Both films simply just entertained, even if they wanted to be more.
Cranston could very well get an Oscar nomination, and I’d understand why. Trumbo, at times, isn’t exactly a man you should root for. But thanks to Cranston, he is always watchable. I enjoyed the unpredictability.
Trumbo might not be the Oscar bait you’d like to believe it is, but does it really need to be? It’s good, old-fashioned fun, and proud of it. Hell, not every serious movie has to be Les Miserables.