- Product Rating -

The Post

| January 7, 2018

Upon hearing of a politically minded Steven Spielberg film starring both Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, I thought that the syzygy of awards prospects was too ideal to be true. As a result, my expectations for The Post were hopeful in its potential if not a little jaded in what it would ultimately amount to, and while it is better than I anticipated, it’s also frustratingly safe. While the performances are typically strong and the technical filmmaking rises a notch above what others would do with such material, it’s still hampered by a script that’s neglects an appropriate scope to tells its story and is fueled by obvious parallels to current events and some ham-fisted execution come act three, just in time to undercut the feminist themes that have been minimized until that point.

In this award season’s “Journalism Movie”, The Post follows Kay Graham (Streep) of The Washington Post, the first female newspaper publisher, as she works with editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) to publish the Pentagon Papers in the midst of Nixon’s presidency. All the while, she battles with the misogyny within her own industry and the ways in which her legacy as the leader of the paper has been simply handed down to her by her father and brother. It feels a bit odd to write about The Post when there’s so much of it that has already been said—for example, its true story and synopsis that speaks for itself. Nevertheless, there are opportunities to be had here from a screenwriting perspective, although they aren’t really brought to fruition by co-writers Liz Hannah and Josh Singer.

Just as its credits would imply, The Post is a movie that coasts a large amount on the charisma and personas of its actors and of its director. Spielberg’s name has become more of a license to dole out nominations lately, but his craft is still to be seen, even if it isn’t entirely fitting with this such material. He and regular collaborator Janusz Kamiński shoot the film with a washed out palette and from the perspective of a floating head, like an objective third party unconsciously wafting its way through the offices and homes in which the movie takes place. It rightfully borrows a fair amount from film noir and such scenes are all the better for it, injecting more of an identity and actually replicating the aesthetic of a newspaper with its inky, high contrast. Within the solid efforts from those behind the camera lie fine if unremarkable work from Hanks and his everyman image, but this really is Streep’s movie.

Her performance is more one that’s felt instead of seen, based on and around internalizing emotions rather than outwardly expressing them. It’s largely comparable to what she’s done before, albeit in a more compelling context. The issue is that the context is compelling, but its execution isn’t so much so. There are a lot of topics inherent to the material of The Post, but they are undone by the writing’s scope and structure. The film tends to focus largely on Hanks’s character for the former half before finally handing the film off to Streep’s, despite her being the true protagonist in question. The seeds for its most engaging ideas are sewn early on, but the feminism of it all doesn’t come to a head until the end, despite the fact that that’s what The Post is truly about. It just happens to be within the context of a political drama, and it’s all the more defeating when the strongest beats of the film are followed by uplifting “power to the press” moments that are so theatrical that they make eyes go white.

It’s not to say that The Post is bad—that would simply be unfair. But when a movie with talent of such caliber isn’t challenged enough by its script, it’s hard to call the experience of it all gratifying. The pieces are there, but the scope brought into play by Hannah and Singer avoids the true core of the story. Watching Streep tell off stuffy old chauvinists is great fun, and although the backdrop to it all is fascinating on a basic level, the comparisons made between Nixon and Trump are too surface-level to entirely engage. Agreeing with a movie doesn’t equal enjoying it, and a movie should never be safe when its lead is anything but.

About the Author:

Senior year film student at Columbia College Chicago, Hollywood Film Festival pre-screener, and Best Social Media Presence for North Farmington High School's 2014 senior mock elections. Firmly believes that ".gif" is pronounced "jiff".
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