London Film Festival Review: Bryan Cranston in Jay Roach's 'Trumbo'
by Amanda Keats
October 13, 2015
Whether you know him as the dad from "Malcolm in the Middle" or as Walter White, there's no denying the chameleon-like acting skills of Bryan Cranston. In Trumbo directed by Jay Roach, he plays the titular character with an outlandish caricature-style panache that anyone else could so easily have turned into pure farce. Thanks to Cranston, however, Trumbo manages to come across as a man driven by the injustice surrounding him. His Trumbo is annoyingly charming and doggedly determined, and his sometimes quietly powerful, sometimes manic and heart-breaking, take on the man is surely one that will spark award interest.
I was immediately drawn in because this is not a perfect man by any stretch. He provokes when some would argue that he should be quiet and he forces his family into an uncomfortable position time and again because he cannot stop doing what he's doing, writing, even though it's claimed he's a communist.
There are so many elements to this movie that it's difficult to see exactly what the target audience is. At first, the movie lures you in with all the old-school Hollywood glamour. Then, this quickly turns sour as Hollywood turns on the screenwriters they have so easily decided warrant ostracizing. There's a real sense of movie community at the outset which makes what comes next all the more tragic and infuriating. The movie is riddled with an injustice that nobody seems able to fight. You just want to scream at some of these people to stop being so stupid. If it weren't based in reality then you might even think it was poor writing – because things like this just don't happen. People don't get thrown in jail for standing up for workers' rights, peacefully and without any criminal action. Except, of course, that they do.
Despite the horrible things taking place throughout the movie, there is also a lighter tone that dances throughout which somehow never lessens the severity of what is happening. One of the most hilarious and surprising elements of the movie is the many instances where fairly unknown actors portray well-known actors of the era such as Kirk Douglas (played by Dean O'Gorman) and John Wayne (played by David James Elliott), especially when clips of their movies are shown with the new actors doing it exactly the way it was done first time around. A true nod to the movie geeks among us!
As someone who has been writing stories for most of my life, I connected immediately with Trumbo (based on Bruce Cook's book of the same name), especially as the stories I write often carry themes of social divide and expectations. I'd like to think I'm free to express myself without fear of persecution but I once had the audacity to write an editorial on the possibility of a female Doctor Who and was accused of shoving my "feminist agenda" down people's throats – so it doesn't seem too much of a stretch.
Ultimately, this is a story that needs to be told and seen by audiences, not just for the contribution Trumbo made to cinema but for the sheer ease with which this small group of people were able to manipulate the masses into fearing a group of writers who wanted nothing but fair wages for movie crews. Trumbo may be a story from decades ago but the theme still resonates so easily today.
Amanda's London 2015 Rating: 8 out of 10
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Reader Feedback - 4 Comments
I can't believe there are actually Cranston haters out there....I want to see this just for him. This would be his first major feature as leading man. Curious more than anything.
TheOct8pus on Oct 13, 2015
There are just some a-holes out there that like to deny themselves nice things.
DAVIDPD on Oct 13, 2015
Good. That is about what I was expecting from this film. Thanks Amanda.
DAVIDPD on Oct 13, 2015
The director's point of view of Trumbo s crap. Trumbo the film: I do not judge the fine actors nor their performance in this make-believe film, but I take exception that there is value or a substantive message learned from untold truth, innuendo and the manipulation of facts. Dalton Trumbo the man: Trumbo lied about being the author of the original screenplay which the 1956 Oscar for "Best Original Story" awarded to “The Brave One”. My father wrote the original screenplay and died before film production. The movie Trumbo misrepresents the avarice conniving man that Trumbo was. Trumbo was all about the money and getting attention to that end. Trumbo was not a hero, he was just a grandstander who took credit from other people’s work if he could get away with it, especially my father, Juan Duval, who wrote the original screenplay that was the basis for the 1956 Oscar winning category “Best Original Story”, “The Bravo One”. My father died before film production and the King Bros and Trumbo took advantage of it. Trumbo was a prodigious writer and during the Blacklist period he was forced to write and rewrite scripts for less money for low-life producers like the King Bros and anyone else who paid him under the table. The King Bros’s nephew Robert Rich, who was one of four listed as the author, was an afterthought and not initially intended to be a front for Trumbo. Per the FBI, Rich was an office errand boy and bag man who picked up scripts and delivered cash to pay Trumbo. Roman Holiday may be Trumbo’s original story for all I know, but he was not in Italy during the shooting of the film where much of the script was re-written by Director Billy Wilder and screenwriter Ian Hunter. They wrote script on set day to day and the nights before shooting the film, as was Wilder’s method of film making. Ian Hunter’s son (rightly so) would not return the Oscar when asked by the Academy to do so in order that the Academy issue Trumbo the Oscar decades later. I understand that Trumbo worked on my father’s screenplay, but it was my father’s original story and not Trumbo’s, which was the category the Oscar was awarded. The Academy should issue a posthumous Oscar to my father, like they did for Trumbo for Roman Holiday. Facts: Trumbo re-wrote my father’s original screenplay and removed 50 pages from it, some of which, was about the Catholic ritual of blessing the bulls before a bull fight. If you read the screenplay marked #1 and the redacted letters in Trumbo’s book, “Additional Dialogue, Letters of Dalton Trumbo, 1942-1962” and compare them to the rewritten scripts and un-redacted letters archived at the University of Wisconsin Library, it’s obvious that Trumbo didn’t write the original screenplay, otherwise, why would he criticize and complain to the King Bros in so many letters about the original screenplay. “The Brave One” script marked “#1” with 170 pages is archived in the University of Wisconsin Library where Trumbo donated all his work. The “#1” script’s Title page was removed and no author was mentioned. The “first version” (133 pages) and “second version” (119 pages) of the scripts listed “Screenplay by: Arthur J. Henley”. The last two scripts listed “Screenplay by Merrill G. White and Harry S Franklin on the early movie posters and “Original Story by Robert L. Rich” was added to scripts later. When the King Bros listed their nephew Robert Rich as author they had no idea that “The Brave One” would be nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Story. At first, Frank King said that there was no such person as Robert Rich and later he said that they bought a 6-page script from a Robert Rich who was away in Germany or Spain. Robert Rich (the nephew) did not attend the Oscar awards because he turned informant for the FBI who were watching Trumbo and Rich didn’t want to be publicly humiliated when the truth came out. And Trumbo used the excuse for not being able to produce the original screenplay for The Brave One on his residence being burgled while intimating that it was the FBI who tossed his residence (FBI File Number: 100-1338754; Serial: 1118; Part: 13 of 15). The FBI did in fact toss his residence but had no interest in scripts. And Trumbo was never an informant for the FBI. White and Franklin were editors and acting as fronts for Trumbo before and after “The Brave One” movie. The King Bros did not initially intend that their nephew Robert Rich be a front for Trumbo as White and Franklin were first listed as the screenwriters on the movie posters of The Brave One. It was only after the media played up the no-show at the Oscars that the King Bros and Trumbo saw an opportunity to play the media and sell tickets (per Trumbo’s letters to the King Bros). Juan Duval, poet, dancer, choreographer, composer and director of stage and film was born in Barcelona, Spain in 1897. He matriculated from the Monastery at Monserrat and moved to Paris in 1913 where he studied with his uncle M Duval. Juan Duval was renowned as a Classical Spanish and Apache dancer and performed in France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain. Juan was fluent in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and English. In 1915, Juan Duval was conscripted into the French Army and fought in Tunis and Verdun, where he suffered head wounds and was partially gassed. He came to the US in 1918 and joined the US Army and was then stationed with the 50th Infantry in occupied Germany for two years before immigrating to the US where he directed live theater and taught dancing and acting at his Studio of Spanish Dancing on Hollywood Blvd across from the Warner Bros Theatre. Juan produced Cave of Sorrow (Play); Lila (Musical Comedy); Spanish Love (Drama); Café Madrid; Spanish Revue; Night In Paris (Drama) and choreographed “One Mad Kiss” (musical) and at least one sword fighting scene with Rudolf Valentino. He directed movies in Mexico and Cuba including the 1935 highest grossing Spanish speaking film, “El Diablo Del Mar” starring Movita (Marlon Brando’s second wife). Mizi Trumbo refused to talk to me about The Brave One original screenplay. Before former Director of the Academy of Arts and Sciences Bruce Davis retired, he told me that because of the documentation that I provided him, he was inclined to believe that my father wrote the original screenplay which the movie, “The Brave One” was based. The Academy gave Trumbo an Oscar for “The Brave One” 20 years after the Oscars and posthumously gave him another Oscar for the Roman Holiday in 2011. The Academy of Arts and Sciences should recognize my father’s original story and posthumously awarded him the Oscar for “Best Original Story” for “The Brave One”. John Hart Duval
John Duval on Dec 22, 2015
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