Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Monthly Archive: January 2019

Wednesday

30

January 2019

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COMMENTS

Breaking Down the Fyre Festival Documentaries

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Are two Fyre Festival documentaries in the same week too much, or not enough? Having watched both in one day, I can’t honestly say I’ve had my fill of Fyre just yet. The horrors of the event provide more effective scares than most fictional narratives could hope to achieve. The sheer absurdity of the event, one that practically everyone involved knew would be a disaster, hasn’t lost any appeal after two feature-length films.

There’s something timeless about Billy McFarland. Hulu’s Fyre Fraud makes the mistake of using McFarland as a conduit to criticize millennials, forgetting how many carnival barkers make their living off the same antics. He’s insufferably caught up in himself, for no apparent reason other than the faint idea that he could exist in proximity to the rich and famous.

Fyre Festival was a dream concocted in service to nothing other than the idea of a dream. The documentaries give about as much focus to the music as MTV does these days. You get the sense that it was never about music, but rather the idea of being on a tropical island with a bunch of famous people. In that regard, the attendees kind of got what they paid for, an experience to remember.

Neither documentary presents much cause for sympathy for the ticketholders, much in line with the internet’s initial reaction to the disaster as it unfolded. The notion of a “once in a lifetime” experience exists in on the surface level with regard to something like the Fyre Festival, but falls apart when you consider the unspectacular music lineup. McFarland sold the dream of exclusivity, the chance to live a real-life Instagram story. In many ways, all the media surrounding the disaster gave the attendees exactly what they wanted, an event unlike any other in music history. Surely the stories of surviving Fyre are worth more cultural capital than a Blink-182 concert.

The Fyre Festival documentaries have captured an impressive slice of media attention, especially when you consider how much new content debuts each week. The entire saga was the perfect blend of millennial-centric catastrophe, a lightning rod used to indict an entire generation. Just like the Tide Pod Challenge that followed a few months later, there’s nothing inherently illuminating about Fyre Festival, an obvious con that fooled the kind of people who spend their days on Instagram looking for the white rabbit beyond their reality.

If you’re wondering which documentary is more worthy of your time, the Netflix one gives you a much more satisfying front-row seat to the disaster as it unfolded. For the true Fyre experience, watch them both back to back. You’ll wonder how so many people could be fooled by one man, but maybe you’ll also think about why we as a country delight in these train-wrecks.

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Wednesday

30

January 2019

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Shameless Doesn’t Have a Clue What to Do with Its Characters

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Ensemble dramas like Shameless are built for the long haul. Every single Gallagher child had departed the original UK version of the series by the conclusion of its ninth season. Assuming no additional cast members leave in the coming episodes besides the departures already announced, the U.S. version will reach that same point down only two Gallagher children. With much of its original cast intact, the U.S. version hasn’t needed to pivot its focus in quite the same way. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t really know what to do with its characters.

For the first few years of the show, Emmy Rossum carried the weight of the show’s emotional core on her back. Fiona’s downward spiral back in season four showcased Rossum’s talent as an actress, offering a heartbreaking depiction of the difficulties of upward mobility out of poverty. In between underwhelming romantic storylines, the show spent much of season eight with Fiona back on the rise. While another fall from grace seems inevitable given the natural arcs of television, it’s sad to see season nine send Fiona out with such pathetic a whimper, embodying the very worst traits of her father.

Season nine has little to say about any of the Gallagher children. With his alcoholism under control, Lip is without a storyline that gives any hint of where his future might lead. Cameron Monaghan’s departure from the series left Ian in jail, thankfully away from the horrendous “gay Jesus” plotline, a concept that might have seemed edgy for cable television back in 2001. After years of struggling to get her act together, Debbie has a stable job, left only with throwaway storylines mining homosexual experimentation for no reason in particular. Liam finds himself kicked out of his private school for no apparent reason, left to play second fiddle to other Gallagher plots. Carl is the only one with any sense of direction in his life, though he’s spinning his tires for the most part with “ripped from the headlines” gags like the electric scooter scheme.

Nine seasons in, Shameless feels tired. The show is content to use current political topics like the #MeToo movement and family separation at the border as weekly plot points without ever really presenting anything interesting to say. Kevin & Veronica have felt like filler for years, rarely factoring into what the Gallaghers are doing at large. Frank’s antics are mildly amusing, if not a waste of William H. Macy’s talent.

Shameless used to be pretty good at multi-season arcs. Fiona, Lip, and Ian, in particular, all had storylines that didn’t play out like high octane roller coasters, moving from high to low with each passing episode. For some reason, the show essentially gave up on that stuff in favor of hitting the reset button every year. The substitute plots can be hit or miss, but there’s little emotional weight behind any of it.

As good an actress as Emmy Rossum is, it’s hard to get emotionally invested in Fiona’s farewell arc. She’s been increasingly isolated from the main Gallagher clan over the past few seasons, repeating a cycle of toxic relationships and bad business decisions. Given the bleak outlook of the show in general, a happy ending was hardly in order, but the lazy planning robbed Rossum of the chance to go out with a bang.

Shameless used to provide a unique look at Chicago’s working class. Now the show is a shell of its former self, wandering from episode to episode without any clear long-term direction. To a certain extent, the show was hindered this season by a need to wrap up storylines for two main characters, but these problems have existed for a while now. There are still plenty of competent actors on the show, but Shameless needs to figure out something worthwhile for them to do.

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Wednesday

23

January 2019

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Netflix’s Fyre Documentary Provides an Extensive Look at the Disastrous Festival

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Part of the intrigue surrounding the Fyre Festival debacle lies in the sheer absurdity that the event wasn’t canceled well before guests began to arrive in the Bahamas. The simple answer of fraud barely begins to satisfy the larger question of what anyone behind the festival was thinking throughout its sloppy preparation period. Netflix’s new documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened seeks to illuminate the many twists and turns of this disastrous saga.

Billy McFarland is a professional conman with a long history of grifts before Fyre Festival, and even a couple afterward with the FBI right on his tail. The documentary explains his methods quite effectively, reconstructing his pyramid schemes to accumulate capital by making promises he couldn’t possibly deliver on. Fyre’s narrow application of these findings is mostly kept to how his behavior directly impeded the festival, making no broader assessments as to how McFarland might represent the current generation. The film doesn’t particularly care about the why of his motives, but instead about the people he harmed in the process.

The idea that Fyre Festival was doomed from the start is certainly present throughout the narrative, but the documentary doesn’t settle for the obvious findings. The infrastructure needed to hold a successful festival cannot be designed and constructed in a few weeks, but there were plenty of people involved with Fyre who did actually try to make it happen. While the weekend was never going to be the VIP luxury event advertised in the initial promo video, hard as it is to believe there was a significant effort made to actually plan a concert. Fyre breaks down everything that went wrong, conducting extensive interviews with employees directly involved with the planning. Extensive contemporaneous video of the planning in progress provides a front row seat to the disaster as it unfolded.

The film takes a measured approach to the comedic factor of the disaster. All the memes of stranded rich kids and the pictures of cheese sandwiches are quite funny, but there were a lot of people hurt by McFarland’s actions. Fyre manages to present its findings in an entertaining fashion while shedding light on the real victims of the nefarious con.

While McFarland lies at the heart of every scandalous decision, the documentary does a good job assigning responsibility to other key players. Fyre Media co-founder Ja Rule deserves much of the blame, as do the influencers and marketers who promoted a fairly obvious scam. In an uncomfortable conflict of interest, Fyre is produced by Jerry Media, the firm that marketed the festival. The ethical dilemma is worthy of scrutiny, but hardly detracts from the overarching narrative. Fortunately, other documentaries about Fyre Festival point this out, ensuring that the conflict will not go unnoticed as the history of the event is recorded.

Fyre presents an extensive look at the many cons and blunders that went into crafting the disaster. It manages to be funny, horrifying, and deeply sad all at the same time. Fyre Festival will live on as one of the most infamous grifts in concert history. The documentary ensures that its viewers will know all the various twists and turns of this epic tragedy.

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Tuesday

22

January 2019

1

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Fyre Fraud Loses Sight of the Scandalous Festival In Pursuit of Millennial Bashing

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Millennials are a frequent punching bag for the media. Apparently, we’re selfish, superficial, and we ruin everything, claims that we’re supposed to believe have never applied to any other generation. Hulu’s new Fyre Fraud documentary, one of two films released about the disastrous festival in the Bahamas, builds its premise based on the notion that such a grift could only work in modern times. Such a thesis seems to forget that America’s luxury class has always pursued community through exclusivity.

Social clubs have been popular for hundreds of years, granting access to those deemed worthy of membership in the eyes of the elite. Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club was built around the same premise, mainstreaming a sense of community through a shared interest in seemingly refined tastes. People frequent cigar lounges not for smokes, but for the chance of a fraternal bond blossoming beneath the fumes.

Fyre Fraud paints Fyre Media CEO Billy McFarland, currently serving a six-year prison sentence for crimes related to the festival, as a kind of genius capable of manipulating the easily-fooled millennial masses. The younger generation somehow deserves some blame for falling victim to the con, which hired hundreds of influencers to create an aura of luxury before any infrastructure was put in place to deliver on such promises. The documentary hoists McFarland up as a natural symptom of a narcissistic generation, hailing him as the spiritual successor to The Wolf of Wall Street Jordan Belfort.

The documentary is less about the festival than it is about McFarland, who was paid to appear in the film under ethically dubious circumstances. Billed as a “true-crime comedy,” Fyre Fraud uses frequent animated cutaways to poke fun at the disaster. There’s a lot to laugh at about Fyre Festival, as social media at the time collectively mocked the hoards of rich kids stranded in the Bahamas after being denied the luxuries they overpaid for. For some reason, the documentary felt obliged to play the role of standup comedian rather than to let the contemporaneous jokes speak for themselves, laughing off serious material that deserved closer scrutiny.

There are a few scenes where the interviewers hold McFarland’s feet to the flames, but can’t manage to shake anything substantive from his slick hands. There are natural reservations on his part to not reveal any information that could add to his prison sentence, but he isn’t forthcoming about much of anything at all. It’s hardly uncommon for a subject to not appear in a hostile documentary, which begs the question of why the film felt the need to pay him to appear at all. Such time could have been spent providing a fuller picture of how the festival was doomed from the get-go, or to showcase the many Bahamians who were conned out of payment for their services.

The documentary does shed some much-needed light on the involvement of Jerry Media, the company behind the infamous “fuckjerry” Instagram account that helped market the festival. Jerry Media produced the other documentary on Fyre Festival, a conflict of interest that deserves to be called out, but Fyre Fraud handles this footnote in a way that seems driven less out of journalistic obligation than as a dunk to claim moral superiority over a competing narrative. There are certainly other people to blame for Fyre Festival than simply McFarland, but this documentary doesn’t spend much time on any of the other perpetrators beyond those who dared to make their own film about the experience.

Fyre Fraud hoists Billy McFarland up as a straw man indictment against millennials, casting aside a thorough examination of the festival in favor of cheap laughs. Grifters like McFarland have been around for thousands of years, robbing Peter to pay Paul. The only difference between McFarland and Charles Ponzi is that none of Ponzi’s victims were able to post an Instagram picture of their experience. The documentary allows McFarland’s charms to suck the air out of the room, lazily criticizing millennials at the expense of exploring the greatest con in festival history.

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Tuesday

22

January 2019

2

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Free Solo Presents a Balanced Portrait of Alex Honnold’s Superhuman Life

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A documentary about an athlete like Alex Honnold faces an inevitable, and somewhat unattainable, objective beyond its purpose as a film. The question of why anyone would ever free solo when the stakes are literally life and death persists long after the audience is forced to accept the idea that there isn’t going to be a satisfying answer. Fortunately, Free Solo found plenty of alternative courses that depict its subject in a way that effectively circumvents the core of the mystique.

Honnold has been making headlines for a little over a decade for his free solo feats, rock climbing without a rope, but Free Solo sets its sights on a more intimate scope. The buildup to Honnold’s climb of Yosemite Valley’s El Captain, to be the first person to free solo the immensely difficult formation, gives the film a sense of purpose beyond a mere biopic. Directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin cover many aspects of Honnold’s life, but the film constantly returns to El Captain, allowing the historic nature of the achievement to serve as a placeholder for any notion that the audience might begin to understand why anyone would want to embark on such a perilous adventure.

Free soloing is not without its detractors, who worry that climbers like Honnold are not only recklessly risking their own lives, but also inspiring others to do the same. The film never paints Honnold as a hero or a role model, despite the obvious cozy relationship the directors enjoyed with their subject. Honnold is immensely likable, an awkward individual without an ego one might expect from his stature, but he’s also clearly not someone meant to be emulated. He’s a singular force of nature, one whose predecessors in the field of free soloing have pretty much all met grim fates. Free Solo manages to celebrate his career while constantly flashing big “don’t try this at home” warnings to the audience, best illustrated through a montage of deceased free solo climbers who lost their lives in pursuit of their passions.

The directors do an excellent job explaining the fundamentals of rock climbing to the audience, as well as the particulars that make El Captain such a monstrous wonder. Capturing Honnold’s climb in progress was an impressive feat itself. Featuring the crew in supporting roles allowed Free Solo to give an added sense of gravity to the journey, as it’s clear that all care about Alex on a deeper level than their obligations as filmmakers.

The film dedicates a large portion of its runtime to Honnold’s love life, which was deliberately presented as nonexistent in one of the first scenes but gradually blossoms over the course of the narrative. Honnold’s girlfriend Sanni McCandless is put in an unusual position for a documentary, in many ways functioning as the film’s antagonist by token of her understandable apprehension toward free soloing. The complexities of their relationship give Free Solo a sense of personal depth that might otherwise be missing, as Honnold is less than forthcoming about the motives behind his wildlife.

At times, their relationship does appear to be used as a plot point, exacerbated by the fact that they started dating after the narrative began. McCandless’ reservations are also contrasted by Honnold’s mother, who takes a completely non-interventionist approach to his free soloing. As the film progresses, it’s clear that her feelings serve as a suitable conduit for the larger issue of why anyone without an apparent death wish would keep attempting such dangerous feats. Honnold seems unbothered by the sentiment, even as he ages and adds more real-world stakes to his life. After a while, the film does an effective job convincing the audience that such motives need not be explained.

Free Solo captures one of the greatest athletic feats in history while never losing sight of its much more human subject. There is a lot to admire in Alex Honnold’s achievements. He makes for a fascinating film subject, a kindhearted man who has dedicated his life to his dreams. There is a real-world danger in idolizing his career, as free soloing often leads to perilous results. Directors Chai Vasarhelyi and Chin crafted their film responsibly, showcasing Honnold’s superhuman talents while making clear that admirers should not leave the film hell-bent on free climbing up the first large object they see.

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Tuesday

15

January 2019

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Mahershala Ali Brings True Detective Back to Form

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The TV landscape has changed quite a bit in the half-decade since True Detective’s debut in 2015. The novelty of seeing big Hollywood names on the small screen has diminished in the wake of new series featuring A-list talent such as Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and Michael Douglas. “Peak TV” exists as much as a cliché as a universal truth in this current era. There are more good shows on right now than anyone, even critics, has actual time to watch.

True Detective has always embraced the slow burn, a concept increasingly harder to sell in this bloated environment. After squandering much of its cultural capital on a forgettable second season, the show finds itself needing to balance suspense with the notion that its audience doesn’t necessarily need to accept that anymore. Mystique is an increasingly tougher sell, especially for week-to-week series.

Casting Mahershala Ali in the lead role was perhaps the best decision the show could have made. Ali has the power to mine intrigue from the mundane, an expressive actor capable of playing the same role across three time periods in a way that makes each feel fresh and unique. We don’t learn all that much about his character, Wayne Hays in the early episodes, but he plays the minimalism to his advantage. His ability to captivate in each scene makes the episodes fly by in a way that was sorely missing from season two.

The time jumps also provide some interesting commentary on the nature of America’s current cultural obsession with true crime series. Unsolved crimes, particularly ones involving children, remain alive years after their cases have gone cold through podcasts and Internet message boards. The unsettling nature of these heinous acts exists in a puzzling contrast with their status as entertainment symbols, something that essentially applies on a broader scale to fictional series like True Detective that deal with brutal murders.

Season three marks a return to form for True Detective, even if though it fails to reach the highs of its freshman effort. America seems less enthralled by anthology series in recent years than it has in the past, perhaps an inevitable development for a medium pushing its saturation point. A strong performance from Mahershala Ali keeps things interesting enough to wash the stink of season two away, even if the series isn’t likely to capture the country’s attention in quite the same way again.

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Monday

14

January 2019

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Mary Poppins Returns Is a Worthy Successor to a Timeless Classic

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For decades, the idea of a Mary Poppins sequel seemed completely sacrilegious, a notion undercut by the current climate of reboots and reimaginings.  Perhaps the only surprise is that Mary Poppins Returns took fifty years to come to fruition. Disney appeared aware of the delicate nature with which one must approach a return trip to Cherry Tree Lane, crafting a film that paid homage to its predecessor while simultaneously doing its best to put some healthy distance between the two.

Julie Andrews’ performance as the magical nanny is one of the most iconic in film history. For all the ways that Emily Blunt appeared destined for failure in taking such a daunting task, she rather effortlessly makes quick work of any notion of comparison early on. Quite literally, Blunt’s Poppins hits the ground running, exhibiting great comfort in the role. The choice to set Returns twenty-five years after the original gave room for Blunt to play the ageless character with a greater sense of reserve than Andrews, while maintaining the quirky sense of confidence that has made the character so endearing for all these years.

A big part of Blunt’s effectiveness is her reluctance to play on the audience’s inevitable nostalgia. She remains ever-faithful to the character while never stooping to the level of impersonation. As much as Mary Poppins has remained Julie Andrews’ over the decades, Blunt transforms her into an entity similar to James Bond, a character with traits the audience expects and others that are open to interpretation.

The supporting cast eases Blunt’s burden with energetic performances that keep the audience smiling from one musical number to the next. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s charm is quite contagious, wearing such an authentic smile on his face throughout the film that you can’t help but share in his obvious joy. Colin Firth does an excellent job as the ruthless banker William “Weatherall” Wilkins, whose efforts to repossess the Banks’ home serves as the film’s primary conflict. Jeremy Swift, best-known for his role as the Dowager’s prickly butler Spratt on Downton Abbey, delivers a delectably sinister performance as Wilkins’ eager enforcer Hamilton Gooding, aided by his softer counterpart Templeton Fyre, played by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.

Mary Poppins Returns demonstrates a careful deployment of its title character, who largely plays a backseat role in the primary conflict between the Banks family and Wilkins. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer deliver compelling performances as the grown-up Michael and Jane, while the film’s child actors anchor the dramatic tension. Many sequels make the same mistake of doubling down on the assets that made the original so memorable, but Mary Poppins Returns exercises considerable restraint, making each of the Poppins-centric scenes are the more memorable in the process.

The biggest flaw of the film is its run time, which goes on about a half hour more than it probably should have given the simplicity of its primary objective. As a result, the second act drags its feet a bit in service to an entertaining yet unnecessary cameo by Meryl Streep. The musical numbers fail to reach the iconic status of the original songs, but deserve a lot of credit for their originality.

Mary Poppins Returns delivers a delightful experience that crafts its own magic while remaining faithful to its source material. Disney held itself to the highest standards, never content to settle for a cheap cash grab. The production values and the performances make for a highly entertaining movie-going experience well-worth the trip to the theatres.

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Monday

14

January 2019

1

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A Strong Performance by Jodie Whittaker Makes Adult Life Skills a Worthwhile Experience

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The subject of growing up has been explored by countless indie movies, trodden well past the point of cliché. Practically every week a new film pops up promising to offer insight on the dilemma of what it means to be young and sad, unable to skirt by on the strength of one’s own quirks. Adult Life Skills takes on a similar mandate, exploring the stranglehold that grief can wield over one’s sense of direction.

Anna’s life is a mess. Her primary method of grief management following her brother’s death is sitting in her mother’s backyard shed making videos of her thumbs discussing existential dread. Not much of a life, but that’s the kind of position tragedy can thrust a person toward, perpetuating the status quo long past its expiration date. It can be quite hard to move on when you don’t have a clue where you’re going.

Quite unlike her character, lead actress Jodie Whittaker has proven up to the task for whatever direction her career has taken her, demonstrating a remarkable range between stints on Broadchurch and as the first female doctor on the long-running Doctor Who. Whittaker makes up for a script that paints Anna as sympathetic but not particularly compelling by honing in on the subtle moments in each scene, adding a layer of depth to the cookie cutter protagonist. Her ability to weave through the nuanced nature of grief practically sustains the narrative all on its own.

Not a lot happens in Adult Life Skills, but the film plays its simple plot to its advantage. A lot of indie films take lost protagonists and string them about for ninety minutes until a chance occurrence provides enough of an aha moment to function as a climax. Coming of age films don’t necessarily offer conclusions in the typical cinematic sense, as you can’t really win at life in the same way as you can defeat a giant three-headed monster. Adult Life Skills never loses sight of its premise, delivering a satisfying resolution that doesn’t call for unnecessary helpings of suspension of disbelief.

The film is not without a few drawbacks. Aside from Whittaker, child actor Ozzy Myers (in his debut performance according to IMDB) gives the film’s only other compelling performance. Most of the characters fall more into the category of forgettable than terrible, but Brett Goldstein delivers an immensely irritating performance as Brendon, an awkward real-estate agent who drags down each scene with cringe-worthy dialogue.

Adult Life Skills makes up for its lack of originality on the strength of Jodie Whittaker’s performance. Fans of hers will find plenty to like in the way the film allows her to showcase her talent for the entirety of the brisk runtime. Not every film needs to reinvent the wheel. Many sink under the weight of their outstretched ambition. The subject of millennial angst remains a popular topic for film to explore, often promising answers the screen can’t possibly deliver. Movies like Adult Life Skills succeed in celebrating the mundane, encouraging their audiences to take each step at a time.

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Friday

4

January 2019

0

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Vice Doesn’t Know What to Say About Dick Cheney

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Adam McKay achieved a seemingly impossible task with his previous film The Big Short in crafting a narrative about the financial meltdown that was both entertaining and easy to understand for the general public. The life of Dick Cheney presents similar issues, an unlikable man who has hardly lived a life that followed any semblance of a hero’s journey, carving his place in history by operating in the shadows of power. While Cheney rarely relished the spotlight during his tenure as vice president, Vice can’t function behind the closed doors of Washington.

Christian Bale nails the peripherals of a Cheney impersonation. He looks and sounds just like him, but there’s little life beneath the prosthetics. The “Darth Cheney” characterization was at least in part inspired by the public’s lack of understanding of the grander motives behind the man beyond a drive for absolute power. Neither McKay nor Bale demonstrate any further clarity on that subject and it shows. The result is a robotic performance with nothing substantive to help illustrate the mystery.

As lifeless as Bale’s Cheney is at times, the performance never becomes a distraction throughout the film. The same cannot be said of Steve Carrell’s turn as Cheney’s mentor Donald Rumsfeld, the architect of the Iraq War. Secretary Rumsfeld’s outspoken personality lends well to parody, but Carrell never feels comfortable in the role. He looks the part, but he never acts with the suave sense of confidence that defined Rummy throughout his controversial career. The voice is perhaps the biggest issue. Not only does Carrell not sound like Rumsfeld, he distinctly always sounds like Steve Carrell, an unnecessary diversion that constantly feels like he’s guest hosting Saturday Night Live rather than trying for an Oscar nomination.

McKay seems aware of the potential for distraction in other characterizations, keeping a fictionalized President Nixon off-screen entirely and limiting President George W. Bush to a few pivotal scenes, even though Sam Rockwell plays a pretty competent Dubya. Amy Adams delivers the most compelling performance in the film as Lynne Cheney, perhaps the only character with a clear sense of motive. Too many characters in the film exist solely for exposition sake, awkwardly dropping summaries of key events into casual conversations even though McKay has a narrator and plenty of text to do the explaining for him.

Vice suffers from an overstuffed narrative that never demonstrates a clear sense of direction, meandering from point to point with little continuity to tie everything together. Cheney’s time as VP is almost entirely defined by the Iraq War and the controversial “enhanced interrogation” methods he championed. Perhaps the biggest problem with the film is that it treats the entirety of the Bush administration as an afterthought, dedicating surprisingly little time to covering his most consequential era. Cheney’s motives for the war are only lightly explored, an issue perhaps exacerbated by the omission of his time as Secretary of Defense, where he oversaw the First Gulf War. To Cheney, Saddam Hussein is painted in Vice as a means to an end for the exercising of absolute executive power, a lazy explanation that ignores much of the nuance and conflicting power centers at the heart of the decision.

Mary Cheney’s homosexuality is given almost as much screen time as the war, a puzzling decision that falls flat by its narrative conclusion that barely involves the VP at all. Biopics cannot provide a full picture of anyone’s life, but Vice seems far too content to squander its runtime on arbitrary chapters of Cheney’s life that no one will talk about when his obituaries are eventually written. This situation is exacerbated by the complete and utter indifference that McKay displays toward presenting anything resembling a conclusion for his film.

Vice lacks a core thesis behind its gorgeous aesthetics. The film is never boring, as its beautiful sets and excellent cast always keep things moving along. Its subject will go down as one of, if not, the most powerful vice presidents in American history. Unfortunately and inexcusably, this biopic can’t seem to find much of anything to say about the life trajectory of a man who went from being a drunk college dropout to the architect of the modern military-industrial complex.

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