Trumbo: a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

February 16, 2016 by Roz Tarszisz
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It is not a crime to belong to a political party. But there was a time in America when it was a crime to be a communist working in Hollywood.

Dalton Trumbo was a very successful screenwriter. When the story begins in 1947, a few years after the end of World War II,  Russia was no longer a United States ally and communism was being viewed as a grave danger.  Movies came to be seen as a way communists could undermine the American way of life.

Trumbo’s career and that of his like-minded friends came crashing down as they were vilified and blacklisted for their political beliefs or merely for being associated with each other. A summons to attend the infamous House Committee on Un-American Activities was not one that could be ignored.

It was a dark time in movie history and the effects lasted until 1960. Trumbo refuses to renounce his socialist beliefs or name his friends as communists and paid the price by going to jail.

His troubles got worse after he came out.  Powerful and vicious gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren ) used her influence to ensure that Trumbo and his friends could not get work in movies.   A telling scene involves Louis B. Mayer (Richard Portnow)) as she blackmails him into keeping the blacklist alive by asking if her readers need to be reminded that he is really Lazar Meir from Minsk.

Trumbo has a family and a long-suffering wife (Diane Lane) to support and keeps writing by using an alias or putting someone else’s name on a script.  Two such scripts win Academy Awards which he cannot collect.  He and his blacklisted friends survive by churning out scripts for Grade B movie house King Films, headed by Frank King (John Goodman). Trumbo’s belief in fairness imbues his daughter Nikola (Elle Fanning) with a sense of social justice.

Eventually Hollywood came looking for him as Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman ) and Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel) beg him to write scripts for them – Sparctacus and Exodus.

Rich in detail and fascinating in scope, all performances are strong.  Mirren and Cranston inhabit their characters completely and while it is a serious topic, there are humorous scenes particularly with Goodman.   Director Jay Roach and writer John McNamara have delivered a powerful story.

4.5/5 124mins Rated M Released 18 February

Director Jay Roach

Starring Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, Diane Lane, John Goodman, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning

Written by John McNamara

 

 

 

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