Trumbo (Jay Roach, 2015)


Trumbo, directed by Jay Roach (2015).

Score: Entertaining.

Trumbo tells the (adapted) story of real-life screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), who was blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee for being a member of the Communist Party and had to resort to other people fronting him for his scripts, among other things. Dalton Trumbo ended up winning two Oscars he couldn’t accept on first instance: for Roman Holiday and The Brave One.

Though this movie is based on real events, it’s just mildly informative: “based” is the keyword here. It’s entertaining and useful to learn about Maccarthyism, but take it with a pinch of salt. When you write a biopic, you have to fictionalize a bit to make it palatable: fabricate conflict if the real one is too bland, add endearing and relatable characters, even if you have to invent them, sprinkle with some obstacles for the main character to face and finish off with some sense of closure. If you’re not willing to do any of this, just make a documentary. The biggest problem I find in Trumbo is that the whole approach is too black-and-white. I can relate to conservative people finding it offensive that the conservatives in this movie are so petty and so obviously confined to being the villains. Exhibit A is the fictionalized version of Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren). Their motivations are not given a second thought nor any depth. I find censorship and persecution for political reasons unacceptable but as a writer you owe your intellectual rivals more respect than that.

Other than that, the movie is beautifully done, entertaining and humorous. Bryan Cranston does a good job at mimicking the real Dalton Trumbo’s mannerisms and speech patterns and Helen Mirren is great at playing the cardboard Dolores Umbridge.

All in all, good to watch after work for some harmless entertainment.

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