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Truth - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B-
Acting: B+
Writing: C
Cinematography: B
Editing: C

If there's any reason to see Truth, it's Cate Blanchett, who as at the top of her game even in this overall blah movie. That's about the most complimentary I can get here, unless you want to include Robert Redford's relatively deadpan yet fairly convincing turn as news anchor Dan Rather. That's one of the most famous news anchors who ever lived, being played by one of the most famous actors who ever lived, and it causes surprisingly little dissonance. It doesn't take long to accept Redford as the news man ultimately brought down by this unfortunate scandal.

And the scandal itself certainly makes an interesting story. Director James Vanderbilt, who also wrote the screenplay (and frankly should have hired someone else for that), does a decent job of presenting it objectively, never attempting to manipulate the audience into considering 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes (Blanchett) or Dan Rather as heroes in this particular instance. Nor are we expected to consider them victims. As it happens, those criticizing the lack of credibility of sources, in the story they ran in 2004 purportedly proving President George W. Bush had gone AWAL in the seventies, happened to have some clearly valid points.

That said, Truth ends with these characters posing some pointedly moralistic arguments about the failing integrity of television news, and yet clearly they were the ones who made some mistakes. Certainly the hoopla at the time unfairly focused on whether the documents they presented had been forged, rather than on the widespread and clear evidence they otherwise had about Bush's past. But there's no denying that the dubiousness of these documents inevitably poisoned the proceedings.

So, Truth really makes it difficult to take anyone's side, really. I'm not sure we have to, per se. Certainly Cate Blanchett plays Mary Mapes as a hard working woman who still has truth on her side, and Blanchett's fantastic performance rises above the material -- which, as a film overall, is frankly lacking. The script dwells far too heavily on Mape's daddy issues -- her dad used to beat her; now she's "a fighter" -- and features far too many scenes with distractingly contrived dialogue. Even the editing gets weirdly maudlin, as in the scene depicting Dan Rather's final broadcast, when even his final turn of the head away from the camera is done in slow motion. All with an emotionally manipulative score meant to cue our tears. Cue eye rolls.

Blanchett is the focal point of the story here as Mary Mapes, with Redford as Dan Rather coming in at a close second. But they are surrounded by other talented actors who get short shrift, saddled with hokey material in roles too small for them to make better with performances the way Blanchett could. Dennis Quaid, Elizabeth Moss and Topher Grace fill out the "crack team" of journalists who were all eventually fired in the fallout. None of them get anything particularly memorable or original to do or say, and all their lines come across as pieces of a puzzle being forced together rather than a natural unspooling of a narrative story.

Things get even worse when Mary Mapes is brought before an investigative committee whose head is played by Dermot Mulroney (star of 2005's The Wedding Date, the worst movie I've seen in the past ten years). His performance here is about as stiff and wooden as can be expected, and here we get to see him pointlessly adjust the glasses on his face in a stupid attempt at making himself look smart.

Truth has a few nice moments. The wife of the man who provided the presumed forged documents, lambasting the news team for trying to pass off the blame, has some real poignancy. Blanchet gets a relatively nice speech before the investigative committee about their own biases. Truth has some nice food for thought regarding this whole ordeal, but there's no real cohesion between them. The script is purportedly based on the book Truth and Duty: the Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power by Mary Mapes herself, and even though I never read it, I still feel confident you should just read that instead of seeing this movie.


Overall: C+
1 comment or Leave a comment
Heather McCrillis From: Heather McCrillis Date: November 7th, 2015 01:56 am (UTC) (Link)
At least Rather has that "The Big Interview" on the AXS cable channel.
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