A Tale of America’s Darkest Modern Hours
Director: Jay Roach
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Elle Fanning, Diane Lane, Louis CK, Helen Mirren, Michael Stuhlbarg
One of the gala screenings at this year’s London Film Festival was Trumbo, a biopic of the Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who became a pariah in the town thanks to his membership of the Communist Party. Cranston plays Trumbo, a man of principles who becomes more and more ostracised through the behaviour of tinsel town gossip monger Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) and John Wayne (David James Elliott). Cranston showed in Breaking Bad that he is an exceptional actor and his performance as Trumbo makes him a flawed, human and sympathetic figure. The rest of the cast are also impressive with Mirren as Hopper as the one weak link. Hopper feels like a caricature and never really leaps off the screen. Stuhlbarg as Edward G Robinson is exceptional, reinforcing the fact that he is arguably one of the best actors currently working in American TV and cinema.
Trumbo’s story of triumph, tragedy and then triumph again is a classic Hollywood tale and it does end on a high, as Trumbo’s reputation was repaired. He worked on Spartacus, uncredited, but received his Oscar for that film years later. Roach did seem like an odd choice as his career has consisted of comedies like Meet The Parents and the three Austin Powers films with Mike Myers but his lightness of touch here does stop Trumbo from just being another turgid, formulaic biopic. Cranston does deserve an Oscar nod for next year as does Stuhlbarg and some of the rest of the cast. Roach manages to bring this dark period of US history to life on screen and with the help of the cast and the production team, he does give us a flavour of 1950s Hollywood and America. Trumbo is an important film with a fascinating story that needs to be told.