The Best Picture Nominees: Vice

| February 23, 2019

The 91st Annual Academy Awards arrive tomorrow.  Let’s take a look at the last of this year’s Best Picture nominees.

So, here’s a question that’s probably not all that hard-hitting.  Would you be surprised by a story about two men who form a personal and professional bond with the intension of spending the next decade working their way through the political system, making alliances and re-establishing the format of how government is run all with the intension of establishing the kind of government that they want when they reach the highest office in the land?  Would you be at all surprised?  Even a little bit?

If your resounding answer is ‘no’ then you were very likely as frustrated by Adam McKay’s Vice as I was.  You already know that this kind of political restructuring is not only possible but has taken place through our history going all the way back to the revolution.  What is the movie telling you that you don’t already know?  How, in the 21st century, with our 24-hour media and social media could anyone be surprised by this?  This is the kind of insider bombshell that might have been surprising in, say, 1932.

Vice is a movie in which writer/director Adam McKay not only states and restates the obvious, but he tries and fails to be funny and clever about the alliance of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (with a bold emphasis on the latter).  The movie has the luster of a Saturday Night Live sketch but it is neither funny nor satirical.

Even aside from that Cheney, let’s be honest, just isn’t all that interesting a subject for a movie.  Christian Bale does disappear inside the role of Cheney but there’s something muted about this portrayal, some key element that’s missing that should make us either glorify or vilify him.  He’s so silent and so stoic at all times that you wait for some revelation, some element to his character to rise to the top to tell us something about him that we don’t already know.

What is far more interesting is the film’s other key player Donald Rumsfeld, played in a brilliant performance by Steve Carrell.  He plays the former Secretary of Defense with the passion and aura of a giddy snake charmer.  There’s a lot of fun and bluster to his performance and that’s where the central focus should have been.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.