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Carissa Green Reads

I read widely from many genres. Perhaps this blog will feature fewer ratings and reviews, but I certainly intend to write about my reading life - it's the subject I most find myself wanting to talk about.

Currently reading

Three Sisters, Three Queens (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels)
Philippa Gregory
A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry
Czesław Miłosz
The Gay Science: with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs
Walter Kaufmann, Friedrich Nietzsche
A Kierkegaard Anthology
Robert W. Bretall
The Guns of August
Barbara W. Tuchman
SPOILER ALERT!

Notes on Adaptation: Trumbo

Dalton Trumbo - Bruce Cook Alan Turing : The Enigma - Andrew Hodges

The recent film, "Trumbo," starring Bryan Cranston in the titular role, reminded me of last year's "The Imitation Game," about mathematician Alan Turing. Both used biographies as their source material, but it was clear that the screenwriters did much additional research and applied great craft and creativity in adapting a "life" into a "drama." - it's much harder than it seems. People's lives are stories, but they're not necessarily compellingly structured in a way worth telling. 

 

To choose scenes that build to form a coherent dramatic narrative arc is truly a skill. "Trumbo" did it well. I particularly liked how the screenwriter used several scenes at Edward G. Robinson's home to "anchor" different parts of the movie and show the progression of the political movement on the characters' lives. 

 

It's not particularly unusual to see a film filled with great male performances. Females are in minor roles here - Trumbo's wife (Diane Lane), daughter (Elle Fanning), and the gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Miren) are about the only ones. But to have a film in which the male performances are not all violent or vile or ridiculous is nice.

 

Cranston, of course, was terrific. His Trumbo was just the way Cook described him - brash, larger-than-life, confident, imperious, sometimes impossible. But Louis C.K. gives a nearly-equal performance in a much quieter, suffering mien as fellow blacklisted writer Arlen Hird (none of the other Hollywood Ten were named Arlen Hird, so this was actually either a composite character or a pseudonym for a person for whom the filmmakers did not have permission to depict).

 

Interestingly, Cook's biography really didn't mention Hopper, nor another supporting character, the prison supply room trusty. But each helped create more drama.

 

The other neat thing about the film was the art direction. At home, the Trumbo family is quite plain in their appearance and lifestyle. But the scenes that depict Hollywood locales - Robinson's home, movie sets, bars and nightclubs, the various movie studios - are all in high mid-century style. I haven't seen a film with so many stylish men's suits and hairstyles in quite some time. It was really cool looking. (Except for Trumbo's glasses - they were all terrible, and he probably progressed through a half-dozen pairs as styles evolved. But they're one of his props, so I guess they had to be there.) Finally, the closing credits were interspersed with actual historical photographs, so that was a bonus.

 

Is it a great film? No. But is it an enjoyable film? Definitely. A fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

 

-cg