Monday, January 14, 2013
Last weekend I saw one of the best movies ever; “Lincoln.”
Growing up on films, I used to be quite the celluloid connoisseur, attending every Saturday as a kid, every weekend as a teen and every time I could as an adult. We still watch a lot of films but in my dotage and what with DVDs and a flat screen TV, Jim and I now enjoy most of them at home. But “Lincoln” is one you should see first in a theater. It’s that large.
A quintet of family members saw it last weekend and discussed it during a post theater dinner. Our son-in-law Todd, who called the film “fabulous” and is probably the best read of us all – especially in history – shared an important film insight. He just began “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, about the 16th president’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. She is a Pulitzer Prize winning biographer and historian. The film uses this work as one primary source of the story. Goodwin, says Todd, describes Lincoln as walking with an uneven gait and at close quarters possessing a glint in the eye that was often used to underscore his reputation as a raconteur. Academy Award winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis, in the title role, obviously studied Goodwin.
Todd’s mother, Dorrie, a mellow 91, thought the movie “very wonderful” and “the shortest two and half hours she’d ever spent in a theater” and “a movie you just didn’t want to end.”
Our daughter Cathy said she was mesmerized by Daniel Day-Lewis’ interpretation of Lincoln and found herself leaning forward to hear his every word.
Jim, who usually doesn’t care for what he calls “talkie movies,” found the most startling part for him was that “there were no ‘weak sisters’ involved in that project.” How right he was. The movie is directed by the master, Steven Spielberg, whose work here is understated and tight, leaving room for the actors to shine. And do they ever, beginning with the star whom I think gives method acting its best name and who definitely channeled Lincoln as many reviewers noted. Joining in the stellar troupe are Sally Field, David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook and Tommy Lee Jones.
Academy Award winner Field plays Mary Todd Lincoln, referred to as “Molly” by her husband in much of the film. She does an uncanny job of physically and dramatically portraying both the humanity and the fragility of an extremely complex woman. David Strathairn, Academy Award nominee, is Secretary of State William H. Seward and is wonderful balancing his role of friend, critic, skeptic and loyal enacting arm of the president.
Hal Holbrook, longtime television and screen actor who once won an Emmy portraying Lincoln, is right on the money as an important Republican trying to arrange a peace between the North and South. And then there’s Tommy Lee Jones, Academy Award winner and still a man in black in this film. He is often an irascible character and in this work plays that role once again as a radical Republican who “excoriated him (Lincoln) on the floor of the House” for arranging to meet with a Confederate peace delegation.
Finally, the haunting movie music is done by composer John Williams, another Academy Award winner.
Even though this movie is a “talkie” there is plenty of sharp and raucous political action. Todd says in “John Adams,” a biography by David McCollough, the author points out that politicians behaved that same way in our second president’s time as well as 100 years later in Lincoln’s. (And how about now, 148 years after that?)
If you haven’t already done so, do go see “Lincoln.” It’s the best of the best and there’s something in it for everyone to savor.