Sunday, November 11, 2012


Carole Mallory


Movie Review--Lincoln, Ho Hum...

Posted: 05/09/2005 4:00 am

Dark and slow in the beginning, but Daniel Day Lewis makes his portrayal of Lincoln come alive. Memorable. Chomping at the bit is that champion scene stealer Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, the senator from Pennsylvania. This film is a carefully studied and moving view of history, though laborious at times. The cast is almost endless in wonderful supporting roles: Hal Holbrook , David Strathain, James Spader, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Michael Stuhlbarg and not to be forgotten Sally Fields who takes her moments and almost writes novels with her expressions though, sad to say, there were times I felt she was overacting and milking these moments. But why weren't there more major women's roles?
Good news! Daniel Day Lewis does not have the pompous and pretentious accent or presence that the trailer implied he might have. He wears Abe well. He is not the problem. 
The problem is watching a history book when we know the ending and there is little surprise. The surprise is in the portraits and characters drawn by the talented actors, not the plot or story based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's book. And so moments are crisp when the dialogue allows Abe to be witty and the garrulous story teller he was. The screenplay soars when the writer shows Lincoln as his cantankerous self. Screenwriter Tony Kushner writes spirit into a movie that is viewed much like one would read a history book and that tedious. Steven Spielberg's direction of the actors is wow time, but the story and darkness of the film cloud his efforts for the viewer. He handles ensemble acting like a maestro, but after one rousing scene ends, there is too long a lull before the next rousing one takes up the slack. Spielberg directed the actors magnificently, but is asleep at the wheel of the story. Kushner is as well.
The sound track is exciting as during a lavish party you can hear the sounds of war in the distance subtly giving a deathly knell. The Civil War is raging while Lincoln had his own war within his cabinet to pass the Emancipation Proclamation. Freeing the slaves was more important to him than ending the war.
Little hardship is shown by the slaves. Perhaps more interaction of the slaves with Lincoln's folk would have tugged a few more limp heart strings. Aside from seeing Thaddeus Stevens in bed with his housekeeper slave and giving her a pleasant peck on the cheek (I was waiting for ET to join them in an orgy), little awareness of the Negroes plight is shown on the screen. Oh, please, let's call a slave a slave. Don't deny them their suffering. This screenplay cried out for a torrid, forbidden sex scene. How many slaves were raped? If you catch yourself yawning while looking at Lincoln or for the exit, you will not be alone.

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