VICE film review

Vice was funny and ironic  until about 50% in and then the audience at the showing I attended stopped laughing as it just became infurating  and sad.  Infurating because the machinations of a few had brought us to our current conditions and sad to think those same manipulations resulted in the loss of thousands of lives of our military members as well as civilians abroad.  While the film is flawed( see excerpts from professional critics below), it provides some interesting insights and reminders of the Dubya presidency, or as a guest on Bill Maher said recently, the Cheney presidency.  Christian Bale and  Amy Adams play the Cheneys as a “power couple”,  Lynne Cheney having more significant influence than previously seen, which director Adam McKay heavy-handedly emphasizes with a Macbeth reference. Although McKay gives a nod to accusations of “liberal bias” as the credits’ roll, the film is not an in-depth character study by any means and should have kept the focus on the Bush White House and its aftermath.  While Bale has been hailed for gaining 35 pounds and slipping into the skin of Cheney, it has been pointed out that actor John C. Reilly accomplished the same transformation, from thin man to obese, using a “fat suit” for his role as Oliver Hardy.  Bale’s devotion to “method acting” should not overshadow the film’s shortcomings.

Criticism aside,  I would still recommend VICE, if for nothing less than giving viewers an impetus to read some of the many scholarly and insider works on Bush, Cheney and company.


from Brian Tallerico on

“Cheney is a towering figure in American politics. He helped shape the entire world and our role in it after 9/11. How he did so and why he did so could make for great American drama. Perhaps we are just too close to it now to really see the full picture—we are very much still riding in the wake of decisions Cheney made while in the White House, and historical biopics made while history is being written often falter. All I know is that Cheney deserved an acidic, smart movie that’s as unforgettable as his political career. My politics may not align with his, but even I can recognize that his legacy doesn’t deserve something as toothless as “Vice.”

The LA Times’s film critic, Kenneth Turin, was much kinder:

“Brainy, audacious, opinionated and fun, “Vice” is a tonic for troubled times. As smart as it is partisan, and it is plenty partisan, this savage satire is scared of only one thing, and that is being dull.

Written and directed by Adam McKay, who won a screenwriting Oscar for the dazzling “The Big Short,” “Vice” tackles a subject as unlikely to result in gleeful cinema as the 2008 financial meltdown.

That would be a deep dive into the life and times of uncompromisingly uncharismatic former Vice President Dick Cheney, played by Christian Bale.

But, as McKay well knows, the word “vice” is not only a governmental title, it’s the opposite of virtue, and his film doesn’t hesitate to depict the two-time veep as a conniving eminence grise whose eight years in office resulted in some of the most troubling aspects of American political life.

Political scientists can argue about the truth of that. The fun of watching “Vice” is not in having your preconceptions appealed to or assaulted, but in enjoying the rousingly cinematic way the story has been told.

Unusual for a writer-director whose language possesses such snap and pizazz, McKay delights in throwing anything and everything up on screen, including type, unexpected news photos (Nancy Reagan sitting on Mr. T’s lap) and stock footage like a clip featuring Marvel’s Galactus, “Devourer of Worlds….

McKay is clearly not averse to taking swings at Cheney for a variety of matters, including the bitter family fight between sisters Mary (Alison Pill) and Liz (Lily Rabe) about gay marriage, but what seems to upset him most is something distinctly nonpartisan.

That would be the notion, broached early and returned to at the end, that “as the world becomes more and more confusing, we ignore facts that change and shape our lives. When we do have free time, the last thing we want is complicated analysis.”

Unless Americans of all political stripes pay attention to what’s going on, “Vice” insists, the results will be dire. A very dark warning from a very funny film.”