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Sat Nov 10, 2012, 06:45 AM

Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ Is Honestly Good [View all]

This looks and sounds honestly great; I may have to go to the movies!

Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ Is Honestly Good


Posted on Nov 9, 2012


Screenshot of movie poster

By Richard Schickel


snip//

Spielberg was, at the time, mildly dyslexic, but he found that his reading troubles disappeared when the subject was Lincoln. Perhaps he didn’t fully realize it at the time—any more than he realized he was going to be a film director—but an obsession was born. Now, after almost 60 years, his obsession has at last borne fruit: “Lincoln” is upon us and it is close to being a great film—beautifully acted, sober in intent and, above all, a passion project that represents an unwavering, virtually lifelong, commitment to an enterprise that is not, on its face, a natural screen subject despite the many Lincoln films over the years.

snip//

The topic became narrowly focused: The film is chiefly about Lincoln’s attempt to pass the Emancipation Proclamation. And a lot of its glory derives from the fact that it grants the issue’s full complexity. Politically, it is a vexing matter, and the movie utterly refuses to simplify it. We have to attend its arguments very carefully. Yet—and this is very much to its credit—they are clearly stated. I cannot readily summon up another movie that deals with an issue, now fairly obscure except to historians specializing in this field, with greater force of detail. Or passion. These people—notably Lincoln—care about this matter and their passion is clarifying. They do not get lost in their arguments and neither do we.

That has a lot to do with the acting, notably Daniel Day-Lewis’ Lincoln. Research has taught him that Lincoln had a rather high, thin voice. The noble resonances and bearing of, say, Raymond Massey are not for him, and this naturalism is a huge, humanizing aid to his characterization. He can, for example, easily tell a funny story and there is no patronizing about it. He is likable, but never seems to be using us for our favor when the mood for drollery overtakes him.

Yet there is steel in the man. He will have what he must have, and what the country must have, in his judgment, and he beavers away tirelessly to assert his will on his “Team of Rivals,” to quote the title of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, which is one of the film’s sources. His work is unforced, even easeful at times. It is a great performance, yet one that never once admits that it is going for greatness.

The same may be said for Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. It is, more or less by common consent, a thankless role but not in Field’s playing. She is much more helpmate than termagant, a woman of spirit, passion and—who would have guessed?—an affectionate nature. At least in this telling, all is well with the Lincoln marriage and the movie is the better for it. Honest Abe had enough troubles without adding a difficult marriage to the list.

What can be said of Field can be said of the rest of the cast—David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook and, most notably, Tommy Lee Jones as a marvelously bumptious Thaddeus Stevens. You could argue—fatuously, I think—that this bold performance is out of key with the rest of the picture, but Jones is on it when it comes to a wayward and hilarious life that goes a long way toward rescuing the film from the danger of being merely earnest and high-minded.

more...

http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/spielbergs_lincoln_is_honestly_good_20121109/

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babylonsister Nov 2012 OP
Cooley Hurd Nov 2012 #1
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WCGreen Nov 2012 #34
MrMickeysMom Nov 2012 #43
Le Taz Hot Nov 2012 #3
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TuxedoKat Nov 2012 #38
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