Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Being honest about Abe
I have wanted to see Steve Spielberg's Lincoln since the hype started months ago. I've always been fascinated by our sixteenth president, the myth and the man. And from the previews and accounts, watching Daniel Day Lewis portray Lincoln was as close to seeing the real thing as one can get (if you don't count Disneyland's Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln...and I don't).
Since I have young children, I haven't seen a movie at a theater that didn't involve Disney or Pixar Studios and computer generated characters in at least five years. So I was resigned to not seeing Lincoln until it made it to cable or Red Box. But my wife, bless her soul, had a Groupon ticket to the local theater that expired this week so she suggested I use it to take my mother-in-law there where Lincoln was premiering just before President's Day.
The theater was packed, but we found okay seats towards the back of the theater and settled in for 2 1/2 hours of what I hoped would be greatness. The movie opens with a brutally disturbing battle scene that leads you to believe Lincoln is going to be an action film. But the few seconds of action in the opening is pretty much the last you see of the battlefield.
What follows is 2 1/2 hours of a 19th century version of the West Wing, fraught with enough political minutia to satisfy your most die hard wonk. The problem is, watching how 19th century politics works, although historically significant, is about as entertaining as watching paint dry while you are making sausage.
Don't get me wrong, the attention to detail in the film was amazing, as was most of the acting (though I don't think Tommy Lee Jones was acting and he looks old enough to have been in the Civil War). But if the costuming was accurate, ill-fitting suits were fashionable in the late 19th century. Daniel Day Lewis is amazing and he does portray a multi-faceted Lincoln who was a great leader and compasionate father. The problem is that the movie seemed too much like it was trying to make a dramatic version of a 50s educational film about how a bill becomes a law.
And, through Spielberg's intense lobbying efforts, Lincoln will likely win "Best Film" honors at the Oscars. But honestly, I don't think it is the best film. It's a good film and a significant film, but I'd be hard pressed to say it is the best film.
Though it was better than Madagascar 3, Brave in all honesty was more entertaining.
Perhaps I need to get out to films made for adults more often.