Hot Take: Trumbo has a spectacular cast. The film is smart, witty and funny but also dull, pedestrian and pretentious. This isn’t much more compelling than a 5th grade history lesson even though it pretends to be.
There’s a scene in Trumbo where Arlen Herd (Louis C.K.) challenges Dalton Trumbo’s (Bryan Cranston) Communist beliefs as they look around Trumbo’s lavish ranch. Herd voices a lack of trust in Trumbo because while his beliefs are those of a Communist, his lifestyle fails to match his beliefs. Trumbo responds emphatically, “It’s the perfect combination! The radical may fight with the purity of Jesus, but the rich guy wins with the cunning of Satan.”
The sound byte works great in the trailer and is one of the many great anecdotal quips throughout the film. However, it’s also one of the many underexplored areas of the Trumbo story. It’s one of the many jabs the movie throws but there’s very few, if any, knockout blows thrown or attempted. Eventually, the movie jabs you to sleep as the story becomes a nuisance because you realize you’re never going to get more than a quippy response from Trumbo.
In the end, Trumbo is a brilliantly acted but lackluster biopic with very little insight into the whys but more of a glossy overview of the struggles the Blacklisted Hollywood members had in their fight for their First Amendment rights. Trumbo is an overly long, mediocre film that could have been better and that’s unfortunate.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Cast Delivers
From Bryan Cranston on down, there are a lot of strong performances in Trumbo. Elle Fanning as daughter Nikola has not gotten the accolades that others have in the film. Her character is one that has a little bit of depth to it and she shines in the role.
- It’s Funny When It Tries to Be
There’s a comedic tone to the film that keeps a somewhat dark topic lighthearted. I’m not sure if that works for the overall flavor but many of the funnier scenes benefit. Nothing will have you belly laughing but there will be a few wry smiles and inner laughs.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- But It’s Preachy, Too
It’s hard to see the character development through the preachy nature of it all. In the beginning, Trumbo’s monologues are witty and captivating but after the 5th or 6th one, they’re kind of a bore.
- And What’s It Really All About?
Is this about the First Amendment or the right to privacy? Or is it a celebration of a great writer who overcame the obstacles to have his work produced on to the big screen? I’m still not really sure.