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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lions For Lambs

I don’t believe I’d even seen a preview of Lions for Lambs before it opened this week at the Essex Cinemas, which is very odd. Here is a big time film directed by and starring Academy Award winner Robert Redford along with double Oscar winner Meryl Streep and perennial loser Tom Cruise. I always like to point that bit out just in case Tommy Girl (as he is called throughout Hollywood behind his little waxed back) accidently scrolls by one day and needs his ego slapped raw.

As the faux Christina Crawford told her nutzo mother Joan in Mommie Dearest, “I am not your fan!” Sorry, Tommy Girl, but ever since you went off on Brooke Shields (and, yes, I know you’ve made up, but I can carry a grudge from century to century and I am more than willing to prove it), then wailed on that adorable Matt Lauer during your visit to the “Today” show, you lost whatever caché you may once have held in my regard. The only thing worse than a self-righteous actor is a stupid self-righteous actor and you proved yourself a member of that category as soon as you opened your mouth and a script wasn’t in front of it. So here you are now, trying to play in the big leagues, with the
Oscar winners, no less, in a movie designed to eschew the liberal political attitude towards the war in Iraq. Naturally, it makes sense that you would choose to play the Republican.


Me? I usually rustle the ire of native Vermonters because I am one of those dreaded “flatlanders” who had the audacity to move into “their” state and bring all of my money and my energy and commitment to the place and have poured them into the land for more than 15 years and am still considered some kind of “g*d d*mn*d tourist” around here, dirtying up the landscape with my liberal views and tax payments. The “real” Vermonters squeal at us “newbies” to take our “stuff”
and go home because we have turned the state into a haven for “bleeding heart liberals” whose blood, apparently, has turned the formerly red state blue. So if this is true, then Lions for Lambs should easily find an audience here at least. It’ll be like preaching to the choir. The only sour note is in Tommy’s performance, which is stiffer than a fifteen year old boy at a Rihanna concert.

Cruise (Mission: Impossible III) plays Über-kind Senator Jasper Irving, the up-and-coming young blood of the GOP, and he is so flag-wavingly perfect he can barely move, yet alone crack a smile. Frankly, he looks a lot like real-life ex-wife Nicole Kidman these days after another of her way-too-many visits to the Botox clinic. He sits at Capitol Hill desk throughout the film in what is supposed to be an interview with veteran reporter Janine Roth (Meryl Streep; Rendition), but it feels more like a political scrimmage with an untrustworthy adversary or an acting exercise with someone way out of his league.

Roth has been summoned by the Senator to his office and given an hour of his oh-so-precious time for reasons she does not know. When she arrives, she finds herself privy to Irving’s hard sell about “new techniques and strategies” that are being implemented immediately in Afghanistan. Before she can ask, and as if she needs to, he launches into his talking points about the program to ensure that she supports the actions in her reporting in the press.

Spliced into Tommy’s long soliloquies about the joys of war are action shots of soldiers being rounded up and sent into Afghanistan per Tommy’s plan, supposedly at the exact same time as his talk with Meryl’s Janine Roth is happening. We see them briefed, then airborne, and even get some ribald ball-busting
soldiering camaraderie before the story is cut short and we skip across the globe to sunny California.

Here, we pick up another story about a West Coast college professor, Stephen Malley (Robert Redford; Charlotte’s Web), and his early morning meeting with a student named Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield; Boy A), a would be/could be excellent student who has sloughed off in class to a point of failing. The Professor has the usual paternal words of wisdom for the kid and he in turn has the usual foul-mouthed, smart-assed retorts ~ male bonding without the booze, measuring stick, campfire, and penises, I guess ~ but eventually the director side of Redford wins out over the actor side and he gets on with it and introduces yet another story into the mix.

Get this. Now we get a flashback story as Professor Malley decides to tell the tale of the last two students he thought had “the right stuff” to amount to something after school. I’ll bet you can guess where this is headed, can’t you? Poof! We’re back a couple of years and listening to a class project presentation by best buddies Ernest Rodriguez (Michael Peña; World Trade Center) and Arian Finch (Derek Luke; Glory Road), who are about two floral arrangements and one unity candle away from a civil union the way they finish one another’s sentences. You’ll recognize them immediately from the earlier story in Afghanistan, which is the later story, since this is a flashback, and then everything goes to hell as all of the timeframes criss-cross one another more often than a two blind men in a round room looking for a corner to sit in.

So we bounce back and forth between Senator Tom droning on in DC while Lois Lane Streep peppers him with pointed questions while trying only half-successfully to hide the fact that being in his presence makes her want to throw up in her mouth a little bit each time he speaks, then we’ve got army soldiers Finch and Rodriguez and their not-so-fine adventures on the ground in the snowy mountains of Afghanistan, and civilians Rodriguez and Finch in their red state pep rallying days at school while their faculty advisor, Professor Malley, looks on with his own form of shock and awe, and finally there is the Professor Malley of today trying to smooth-talk odd Todd not to opt out of making something better of himself than becoming a human target for the Taliban without ever actually using those words.

All this wraps up in a swift 92 minutes, though it seems like way more has been crammed into this obvious puffy piñata of propaganda than could possibly have been told in that length of time. Of course, not all is told, and for the rare (and I am certain they will be as rare as hens’ teeth) Republican who comes to this movie, this may be very, very upsetting. They expect all of their movies to have every question answered and every character’s storyline wrapped up and completely finished before the allotted time is up. It’s a shame they don’t hold that same standard for their wars.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Hey, I'm a bleeding-heart liberal Vermonter who's family has been in the state since before it had a name, thank-you-very-much. Some Vermonters like to be all like "ooo, Vermont is a republican state originally!" Yeah, we were. Back when republican meant "slave huggin' crazy liberal hippies who like the federal government strong!" Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery, and it makes sense that we would be the first to have civil unions, too.

Anyway, Clamzilla, I <3 your reviews. Keep up the good work. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on enchanted.