Dalton Trumbo, one of the pivotal figures against the McCarthy blacklisting, was an inspiration to all of Hollywood. In attempting to bring his story to the silver screen however, director Jay Roach focused more on meticulous presentation, and less on the juicy story that exhibited Trumbo’s true genius.
Following the story of blacklisted Hollywood during the fear of Communism in the 40s, Trumbo weaves the story of a quite clever defiance against political forces through film. Forced to go underground, Trumbo and his cohorts write under pseudonyms, producing some of Hollywood’s most memorable films without even an ounce of credit until America’s gripping fear of communism waned.
“Mirren was utterly wasted as her Cruella DeVille-esque character was portrayed with an underwhelming sense of simplicity”
The emotional core of the movie tells Trumbo’s dogged survival. He sold his ranch in California, moved to Mexico with his wife Jean (Diane Lane, primly anxious as per usual), and got work on Poverty Row for the producer Frank King, a hardline vulgarian of such mercenary disposition that it’s no surprise John Goodman plays him.
While driving most of the plot through Bryan Cranston’s acting prowess as Trumbo himself, the representation of the antagonists leaves much to be desired. The villains here, barring the relative pity afforded to turncoat star Edward G Robinson (Michael Stuhlbarg), are almost Disneyish in their cackling obviousness – none more so than Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren), the notorious gossip columnist who waged a weekly smear campaign against Trumbo and his associates. Mirren was utterly wasted by the script, as her Cruella DeVille-esque character was portrayed with an underwhelming sense of simplicity that hardly does the dame justice.
As a movie that celebrates and glorifies Hollywood, during one of its darker periods, Trumbo delivers a standard box-office crowd pleaser. As a biopic of one of the industry’s unsung heroes however, it underwhelms.
More like this: Argo (2012)