Steven Spielberg is a great example of a director whose film catalog I could watch and study for the artistry and expertise if not just for the sheer enjoyment. “The Post” is no different, and though it doesn’t rank in my top three Spielberg movies (Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, The Color Purple), it is still a solid film with strong performances.
The IMDB synopsis for this film reads as follows:
“A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between the press and the government.”
“The country’s first female newspaper publisher…” With an address like that you might imagine a confident woman, tough as nails, headlining the boy’s club on print, but in this case, well, no. Almost immediately you are presented with a timid and uncertain lead persona, fumbling through a mock presentation for a board meeting. Who is this woman?
It’s Meryl Streep doing what Meryl Streep does best: taking a character and performing their good and bad traits with no ounce of hesitation or insincerity. In “The Post” we have a strong, brilliant actress playing a meek, tentative woman. I must admit, the contrasts here were wonderful to watch as well as wildly frustrating to sit through. Meryl, as always, was stunning on-screen. I believed her every word and action. I stood alongside her in her cause and genuinely wanted her to succeed. But where was the gusto of the character! Her arc was too slow for me and the positioning felt awkward, leading to my frustration. I would have enjoyed the movie more if the certain revelations in the end were presented in the beginning.
The film is set in Washington, D.C. and follows Katharine Graham and her team of editors and reporters during a media scandal in the early 1960s. Tom Hanks plays the lead editor, Ben Bradlee, who sometimes has a thick Boston accent and sometimes not. Though noticeable, it was only slightly distracting. Katharine’s daughter, Lally (played by Allison Brie), however, had a very high-brow accent, which sounded exactly like her character on Mad Men. It was loud and pronounced, making a conversation she had with her mother grating on the ears.
I later questioned the motives of certain characters throughout the movie. For instance, why were the documents breached in the first place and why were they so readily given to the press without any due diligence, given the scandal and secrecy? Why would Katharine ask the man under fire for his advice on how to handle the situation? And most importantly, why was the press, whose sole function is to disseminate the news and keep the nation informed, so hesitant to do its job? That’s the whole job! Freedom of speech and press are protected under the Constitution for a reason! The story’s basic premise was interrupted in its execution. To clarify, I had trouble with the story elements and not necessarily the direction of the film in this case. Is this how it actually happened in the 60s?
And for fun, why are the editors in TV/film always portrayed as being so unapproachable by their employees? Is that part of the job description? 😊
The cool thing about investigative journalism stories is the real-time element that keeps you on your toes about what’s going to happen next. Are they going to make the deadline? Will they locate a credible source? Will the offender get caught in the act? It’s also nice when the story is set in earlier times and the technology is different. It was super cool seeing how the papers were printed back then.
In sum, this movie took care in its dialogue and interpersonal setup; the cast was well blended and it felt very intimate. There is a multi-way phone call scene that I thoroughly enjoyed. I also loved the way they used Nixon throughout the film. Bonus points if the TV footage were the actual reports during the scandal!
It’s worth the watch if you have the time.