Good Night, And Good Luck
A friend and I went to see Goodnight, And Good Luck last night. I had already seen a reel through work so I was familiar with a good chunk of the dramatic highlights. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable experience and definitely a nice switch from the loud, colourful bombast of most mainstream films.
Aesthetically the film is gorgeous. Director George Clooney makes the most filming in black and white to frame the film solidly in the good ol' days when cigarettes and scotch were staples of any newsroom. He seems to have picked up some herky-jerky (probably not the technical term) mannerisms from his pal Soderbergh but it fits the fast-paced atmosphere.
One of the most talked-about aspects of the film was Clooney's decision to mix dramatic re-creations with actual documentary footage of McCarthy and the HUAC hearings. It's a bold choice and it works, but only up to a point. Towards the latter half of the film, I felt there was a definite over-reliance on the footage.
The film also inevitably suffers from, for lack of a better term, liberal bias. You know what you're in for during the film's opening scenes when there's a cringe-inducing GIANT SCROLLING NOTE reading something like: "During the 1950s people were scared of Communists! Joseph McCarthy was a bully and people were scared to speak up! People were being oppressed! BAD!! "
Er, yeah. Thanks for that, George. As if I wouldn't have figured that out five minutes into the film. So right away the audience has been warned that the film doesn't leave a lot of room for debate. If you've chosen to watch the movie, it's probably because you share the same basic sentiments on McCarthy and, by extension, the current "war on terror." In other words, you are not Ann Coulter.
Although it was a beautiful-looking and beautifully-acted film, I couldn't escape the feeling that if you cobbled together a documentary using the footage you could achieve the same results. It's probably telling that the one thing my friend and I agreed upon after leaving the theatre was that it's too bad men don't dress like that anymore. And, in particular, suspenders are hot.* Probably not the message Clooney wanted us to take away.
David Strathairn is psychotically brilliant with his dead-on depiction of Murrow and his Best Actor Oscar nomination is well-deserved, but there will no doubt be criticism that his showiest scenes are "merely" him re-enacting Murrow's famous See It Now broadcasts. There are no angsty home scenes with Murrow; just the supremely controlled professional newsman. Because of this the film teeters dangerously close to hagiography but it's nice to see a film that doesn't wallow in the hero's "inner struggle." Further proof of why Clooney is such a throwback to the days of classic leading men like Cary Grant and Clark Gable.
Clearly, the film also opens a whole can of worms in regards to the state of the television news industry. But that's something which I really don't have the strength to get into right now. Maybe after a scotch and cigarette?
* Not that Strathairn is necessarily hot. Although in my experience practically every journalist (male or female) has a platonic crush on Ed Murrow.