Trumbo looks and sounds the part but I didn’t give it a second thought after exiting the press screening. (Well, apart from writing up this three-star Sunday Indo review).
CINEPHILES will know of Dalton Trumbo, the screenwriter who refused to be bullied by hysterical anti-communist paranoia during Tinseltown’s heyday. In 1947, Trumbo was vilified after refusing to co-operate with a committee of the US House of Representatives that believed the big screen was being used as a propaganda tool by them nasty commies.
Despite being one of the industry’s most bankable talents, Trumbo did a spell in jail before being blacklisted due to his ties with the US Communist Party (leftist capitalists or champagne socialists, take your pick). Shunned by studio associates, he kept writing under a pseudonym, nabbing Oscars for Roman Holiday (1953) and The Brave One (1956) that he was unable to collect in person.
Like Adam McKay (The Big Short), Jay Roach is a film-maker of comedic leanings (Austin Powers, Meet The Parents etc) who finds himself courting awards nods via a foray into fact-based drama. Most of Trumbo’s accolades, however, are for acting (Bryan Cranston as the titular scribe and family man, Helen Mirren as journalist/nemesis Hedda Hopper), which is an indicator of its shortcomings elsewhere.
Trumbo doesn’t tap into the sense of the era ruthlessly enough. It’s too innocuously lit and putters along inoffensively. Cranston is fine, and as an example of a functional, breezy biopic, it rates highly. Just don’t expect to be swept off your feet by intrigue, pizazz or resonance.
First published in the Sunday Independent