I don’t have many funny things to say about this film because it was pretty great. But feel free to read it while listening to Mambo No. 5 by Lou Bega. I didn’t make the review rhyme but it should still be good for a giggle.
There are lots of reasons to make a movie. Sometimes the creators have a personal story they need to express, big action-explosion-blow-up movies serve to let us check out for a bit, and some are stories that need to be told. They’re part of our history, unknown to most that deserves to be woven through the fabric of our collective American mythology.
Trumbo is a story that needs to be told.
It’s a story of justice and injustice and a guy who did the right thing because it was the right thing to do.
The movie opens with an important factoid. Something to the effect of: after the Great Depression and the Stock Market crash in the 1930’s, a lot people joined the Communist Party. The Communist Party was an accepted political party at the time. It wasn’t a crime. And it makes sense to me. People saw capitalism crash and they thought, “This might not be sustainable, maybe we should share the wealth, as communism dictates.”
It was fine to be a Communist until 1947 after World War II ended and the Cold War started. Then Russia was “evil” and Communism had to be eradicated. Certain people like Senator Joseph McCarthy and a gossip columnist named Hedda Hopper were part of a conservative movement to expose all Communists and throw them in jail.
Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was the most successful screenwriter in the 1940’s, and super smart, and a Communist. He was just going along with his hot wife Cleo (Diane Lane), three kids and a really nice house, writing hit movies that people love. Then the House of Un-American Activities Committee was formed and people started using rhetoric like ‘Evil Reds’ and spreading rumors that people involved in the Communist Party were secretly infecting America with communism through film. Trumbo was outed as a communist, fired from MGM, put in jail and no longer allowed to put his name on his films.
Confession: I didn’t know who Trumbo was until I watched the movie yesterday. I’m so embarrassed! I’m a professional screenwriter. I’ve been a member of the Writers Guild of America for a decade. There’s a picture of Trumbo in the Writer’s Guild Lounge, I’ve seen it a ton but I had no idea who he was or what he’d accomplished.
It’s a good film and a great lesson in the damage that a bossy conservative minority can do using public scare tactics. And reminds us not to fall for it.
“Everybody now seems to be talking about democracy. I don’t understand this. As I think of it, democracy isn’t like a Sunday suit to be brought out and worn only for parades. It’s the kind of a life a decent man leads, it’s something to live for and to die for.” – Dalton Trumbo