Will We Ever Know the Truth?

According to a recent article on Time, a newspaper reporter was ranked as the worst job in America for the third year in a row. Out of a total of 10 professions, the job of broadcaster was, similarly, ranked at number three. Both professions report a poor growth outlook of -9%, statistics that could probably be borne out in the film, Truth, a story about a television news team who lose their jobs over a controversial news piece. The story is set during the upcoming 2004 presidential elections in the USA. The CBS 60 Minutes team at the time compile a report on President George Bush’s shady military past, alleging that the incumbent president had, in his youth, used his privileged connections to avoid being drafted into the war against Vietnam.

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Cate Blanchett in Truth. Image: supplied by Ster Kinekor.

The team’s whole premise is based on documents obtained from a “secret” source. And it is these documents that prove to be the downfall of the piece. The story is ultimately pulled, CBS makes a public apology and all the team members lose their jobs.

Cate Blanchett is cast as the hardworking producer of 60 Minutes, Mary Mapes. Whilst Blanchett presents a really strong performance I’m not convinced she manages to pull Mapes off to the full. As Mapes, Blanchett is a middle-of-the-road character with untidy hair and cheap make-up – somewhat different to the roles I have seen this poised and sophisticated actress usually play.

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Dennis Quaid in Truth. Image: supplied by Ster Kinekor

The story, likewise, just isn’t weighty enough. Yes, any kind of cheating by the leader of a country, has wider consequences than simply pre-election scandal. But in countries where the actions of elected officials involve bribery and corruption on a much larger scale, Bush’s evasion of the military seems a little tame.

But then, perhaps my response indicates the very strength of Truth. In this movie we see just enough of the reporters’ working techniques to doubt the thoroughness of their investigative work. Likewise, we see just enough of the corresponding shut down of the story to question what really was the truth. How serious was the evidence? The question remains unanswered.

Truth opens at cinemas in South Africa on 10 June and is worthwhile viewing.

Carol’s good bits are few and far between

In Carol, rich socialite, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), develops an attraction for young shopworker, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara). The ensuing love affair threatens Carol’s already troubled marriage to Harge (Kyle Chandler) and the public shame of lesbianism results in Harge successfully suing for sole custody of their young daughter, Rindy (Kk and Sadie Heim). The story takes place in 1950s New York, a time in which homosexuality received even more censure than it does today.

Poster: supplied

Poster: supplied

From the earliest scenes in the film modern viewers are groomed to recognise the gender shaping to which men and women are subject. For example, Therese works at the girls’ doll counter of a department store’s toy section. When Carol visits the store looking for a doll for her daughter, Therese admits she has never really liked dolls but is, instead, happy to recommend a train set – a typical boy’s toy. Carol buys the train set. The scene further serves as a picture for Carol and Therese’s eventual rebellion against societal norms, and for Therese’s growth as an individual.

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in the slow-moving film, Carol. Photo: supplied.

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in the slow-moving film, Carol. Photo: supplied.

Being a period drama makes Carol an attractive film, and the costumes, cars and lifestyle reminded me somewhat of Blue Jasmine, a 2013 film for which Cate Blanchett won an Oscar. The pace is gentle and much of the filming features windows and reflections, giving the viewer pause to reflect on meaningful dialogue. A dialogue example is when Therese lambastes herself for “always saying  ‘yes’ to everything,” a failing she eventually overcomes in her journey of self-discovery.

But these are the good parts of the film. And they are very few and far between. The “reflective pace” is far too slow and nothing much happens, particularly during Carol and Therese’s road trip. I found myself checking my watch, trying to hurry up this almost-two-hour film. I also wondered if Cate Blanchett’s role as executive director was an attempt by Blanchett to recreate the Blue Jasmine feel. It didn’t succeed. So much more could have been done with this art movie; so much more could have been made of the very topical, difficult subject of lesbianism.

Carol opens at cinemas in South Africa on 18 December.

Message in The Monuments Men meanders vaguely

A review by Brenda Daniels

The Monuments Men is a World War II drama based on a true story. It recounts how artworks in the form of paintings and sculptures, stolen by the Nazis during the war, were recovered. The film features a cast of big names including George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and Bill Murray.

Seven men, previously unconscripted because of age, are handpicked by Frank Stokes (Clooney) for their art expertise. They don uniforms right near the end of the war and set out on their mission to find the artworks and return them to their rightful owners.

There are no flashy heroics in this film. The characters are old and ordinary. And their mission of saving artworks seems silly when compared to saving human lives. But, argues their leader Stokes, preserving art is preserving culture. And culture reflects the importance of a people and their achievements.

What the group did recover is indeed staggering. What they helped prevent is monumental. Hitler had plans to build his own Führer Museum. He needed art, books and other treasures to fill it so stole what he needed, storing it up in hiding places. This ragtag bunch of chaps was instrumental in putting an end to his dreams.

Unfortunately The Monuments Men meanders through a vague plot, throwing in some sentimentality and personal suffering just for good measure. This makes what promised to be a fine film slow and unnecessarily long.

The actors do a good job, particularly Cate Blanchett as a sour but helpful source of intelligence. As a group they don’t leave a lasting impression nor do they capitalise on some potential for humour. Although The Monuments Men fails to make more of its noble message, the message does get through and is worth watching just for this.

The Monuments Men opens at NuMetro Theatres in South Africa on 14 February.

MFAA soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle               (Source: Creative Commons)

MFAA soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle (Source: Creative Commons)