Saturday, September 24, 2005

good night, and good luck. (clooney, 2005)

Departing from the scab-picking fascination of Clooney's debut film, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind*, the new film unfolds with the sobriety of Michael Mann's The Insider, or of the best parts of TV's The West Wing, neither gazing down on its characters as if they were new insects, nor staring up at them in awe.

As an argument, Clooney and his producer/cowriter Grant Heslov seek to buck up the enervated '05 left by integrating into a period context a lot of ideas that occurred to a few of us then, and should occur to more of us now; should be said aloud more often; should in fact not have to be said at all, but there you have it, that's the world we live in. The main idea being that the news media shouldn't exist solely to report what the politicians have handed them, and, in doing so, call it objectivity.

There's no question whose side you should be on when you see the film, but, blessedly, Clooney's formal and pedagogical restraint go a long way in keeping Good Night, and Good Luck. from becoming just another H'wood audiencejob, wherein the viewer is given 90 or so minutes of what I like to call "moral pleasure," and leaves the theater thinking, "What a great person I am."

Many of the era's warts are deliberately included - the subjugation of women in the workplace (highlighted in the moment when Patricial Clarkson's Shirley is asked, "Honey, go and get the morning papers," and she does, and that's that), the almost total absence of non-whites (exceptions include a voluptuous chanteuse who occupies the space, if not the role, of the film's Greek Chorus, and a cloakroom girl, viewed on an old Kinescope), and the idea that nobody was gay, not even Liberace. How far we have come, just to start fucking it all up again.


* Which, just so it's clear, I liked.

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