Film Column: Strong performances elevate "The Post" beyond the realm of Oscar-baitBy Parker Aniszewski | 01/23/2018 11:46pm
Oscar bait movies are usually boring: there’s no denying that fact.
They usually tell the story of an important figure in history, while showing either their whole lives or a single critical moment. The new Steven Spielberg film “The Post” follows the latter convention. This film is all about The Washington Post in the early 1970s and their editorial decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, a 4,000 page document that proved that the government lied and covered up our real reasons for being in the Vietnam War.
The movie’s main character is Katherine Graham, the first woman to head The Washington Post, portrayed excellently by the one and only Meryl Streep. The film focuses also on the team of editors and reporters that work below her, portrayed by Tom Hanks, David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, with more supporting roles going to Bradley Whitford, Alison Brie and Sarah Paulson.
The standouts of the film are, unsurprisingly, Streep and Hanks, whose chemistry and mutual respect for each other's characters are really the best part of this film. That, and the dialogue. It never feels fake or disingenuous, but instead like two friends that have been working together for years.
The rest of the cast does a good job with their roles too, no matter the size. The direction by Spielberg is not his best; he holds on two-shots of characters talking almost too long at times, but when he’s cutting quickly to show the newspaper being created, it’s immensely fascinating and satisfying to watch.
Now, of course I was not alive back during the days of Nixon and Vietnam. However I really felt like I was there while watching the film. The characters' wardrobes along with the visually accurate set design makes the world of 1970s Washington and New York feel alive, like we’re there. I think this movie has slightly too much nostalgia packed in because at times the story did drag on and linger for longer than it should have. I understand that this is based off reality, so they only have so much to work from when it comes to the story.
However I was still bored at times throughout the movie. The pacing is off at times, too, and I think that is in part due to how often Spielberg stayed in a two-shot. This direction really made character's conversations feel like they’re happening in real time, which slows down the pacing.
"The Post" is a paint-by-numbers biopic, but the time-period accuracy and the actor’s performances really drive the film. Some of the movie felt predictable, but overall I still enjoyed it. Look for this film come Oscar time.