Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Vice (2018)

My mother asked why someone would make a movie about a vice president.  That’s how seriously the job is taken.  I was trying to find a joke to lead off this review, but I think that’s the best lead I can find.

Then again, this is Richard Bruce Cheney we’re talking about.

He’s been called a lot of things.  I don’t imagine most of them were nice.

The movie’s timeline starts with him being pulled over for driving under the influence of alcohol.  That and a fight land him in jail, meaning that his wife, Lynne, has to bail him out.  She puts it to him to clean up his act.  He promises to do so, and does he.  This doesn’t get him back into Yale, but he does go into politics.

This leads to another turning point.  As an intern, he’s given the choice to work for a Democrat or a Republican.  After seeing Donald Rumsfeld speak, Cheney knows who he wants to intern with.   The two work well together, leading to more turning points and decisions.

The movie is said to be based on the true story, but I think the actual narrative falls somewhere between satire and sarcasm.  I got the impression that certain parts weren’t literally true.  (Take, for example, a claim that Cheney won the Iron Man competition.)  When his name is floated as a possible contender for president, he turns it down.  Part of it is that he doesn‘t want to expose his daughter to media attention because she‘s a lesbian.  It also doesn’t help that his odds of being elected put him two spots below Dan Quayle.

You do get the sense that Cheney is not a nice person.  The line goes that power corrupts, but Cheney may have been corrupt already.  He was just looking for the next opportunity.  When presented with the possibility of being vice president, Lynne won’t hear of it.  It’s a nothing job.

Sure, it might serve as a springboard to the presidency.  (From the 1980 election until 2008, either the sitting President or Vice President sought the office of President.)  Still, Vice President?  Instead of turning it down, Cheney looks into how he can make the job to his own liking.  It’s like Anakin Skywalker being trained in The Force.  It’s just a matter of time before he becomes Darth Vader.

I will say that the casting is spot on.  To see Cheney, you don’t even realize that it’s Christian Bale.  When you see George W. Bush, you’re not thinking of Sam Rockwell.  Sure, Steve Carell is a little obvious as Rumsfeld, but that’s actually forgivable.  (Having seen pictures of Runsfeld, I would say that Carell is a pretty awesome choice.)  Even having Jesse Plemons narrate the story was the way to go.

So many things come down to random events.  Imagine if Cheney hadn’t flunked out of Yale.  Suppose he hadn’t married Lynne.  What if Rumsfeld hadn’t spoken to the interns that day?  It would make for an interesting alternate-history story.

No comments :