Thursday, May 8, 2014

Good Man


The same week as the launch of Freedom 7, George Timothy Clooney was born. Happy 53rd to one of modern Hollywood's few good guys. [In spite of his continuing support for Wall Street's mass-murdering pimp.]

In this SpiderMan movie era, going on 30 years now, we're all being dragged through, to experience a classical liberal film is a bracing and uplifting experience. Works such as Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) were pretty much standard fair and what socially-sensitive filmgoers of the late-50s and early-60s would expect from Hollywood (Seven Days in May, Fail Safe, A Child is Waiting, Lilies of the Field, Anatomy of a Murder, Americanization of Emily, Manchurian Candidate, The Miracle Worker, Advise and Consent, Days of Wine and Roses), but has been a genre so long ignored that it's heartbreaking to see it once more. People can, and should, treat each other decently -- that is the theme of the work. How revolutionary it now seems, when the face of U.S. power and culture appeals to the worst and assumes the very worst about humanity.

A chamber piece that believes its audience (probably a mistake) knows enough about the McCarthy Era to move right into the human element of the time, Good Night embodies the dream of good people working together doing good things; and it works so well because that's what director Clooney achieved on his set. All his actors are quiet, devoid of the usual ET narcissism, and one comes away aching for a group of co-workers doing serious things, treating each other with respect, and feeling safe about it all. (Another dream stolen from us by the corporate totalitarians.)

The picture has its flaws. As suggested by Walter Cronkite, perhaps a brief prelude of what was going on in the early 1950s may have helped people jump into the human aspects more readily. (Stone did a great job of that with the Charlie Sheen-narrated prelude to JFK. Once we get to Kevin Costner, is another matter.) The subplot with the secretly-married Robert Downey, Jr (who's particularly good here, as usual) and Patricia Clarkson (who's not, as usual) should've been dumped. And replaced with much more background on the monstrous William Paley (Frank Langella). The director hints at where he could have gone, in the scene where Paley tells Murrow: "I gave you that house of yours. I put your kids through school. I've given you everything you have." It is, of course, the other way around. The Paleys of that world -- and especially our own -- have what they have because of the blood of people like Ed Murrow, Fred Friendly, Don Hollenbeck, and George Clooney. Paley's bellowing is exactly the way the vampire class always feels about itself. Which is why it must be destroyed. But now I'm arguing for a different kind of film. . .

A generous-hearted actor and director, what Clooney gives us remains special, with an opening as lovely as one of his aunt's songs.