Movies: The Post

It's interesting to watch something like Ready Player One and then The Post. On the surface they are tonally very different. But both adhere to traditional filmmaking structure, and both are, at the core, stories of fighting the big bads who appear to hold all the power. They're both about using whatever kind of power you may have to defeat those who would strangle democracy.

I tried, while watching, to decide whether I'd know that the same director made both films. But all I could say is that I'd probably guess Spielberg made both films. If it were any other director, I might not have cottoned on. But Spielberg has a definite style (or definite styles, depending on the type of movie—I know a Spielberg popcorn film when I see one, and I know a Spielberg drama when I see one, too).

As for The Post, well, I can't say I was engrossed. I think it must be difficult to make people reading papers and trying to decide whether to publish them very interesting to watch. The end result being I didn't pay as much attention as I should have. In fact, I had a glorious moment of stupidity at the end when I asked, "Wait. Why is The Washington Post in New York?" My husband just stared at me. "You weren't really watching, were you?" he asked finally. Busted.

I think Meryl Streep's character of Kay Graham is meant to be the dramatic focus of the film—the protagonist, the sympathetic character. She has inherited The Post by what most of the people around her seem to consider a terrible accident, and so she has a bunch of men advising her and making her doubt herself. We're used to seeing Streep play a dynamo, and there's probably a reason for that; her as wishy-washy and subdued does not make for very exciting viewing. Spoilers: she eventually makes the big decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, despite all the advice not to, and despite knowing it means going to trial and possibly losing and going to jail. But the stakes here just don't feel very high, and by the time Graham grows a backbone, we've already lost interest.

There are a lot of characters here, too, a lot to keep track of. The surfeit of familiar faces is somewhat distracting. And it seems that no one character received enough time to really become established and interesting.

That said, The Post is timely in its reminder that the free press is key to democracy. In fact, it hits viewers over the head with this point repeatedly. And ends with the door open for viewers to go watch All the President's Men after. The message seeming to be that any administration that tries to squash the flow of information is usually trying to hide something much bigger and much worse. I can't say I necessarily disagree, and there's something cathartic about having all this encapsulated in a movie. Too bad the movie isn't more entertaining as a whole. We all know I love Spielberg, but this wasn't one of my favorites.

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