It’s hard for me to tell if I love a movie that Bryan Cranston is in or if I just love Bryan Cranston. I’ve adored that man for years, even as the tighty-whitey Dad on Malcolm in the Middle. That’s part of the reason I’m struggling to review the movie Trumbo. Cranston is in every scene, hunching his shoulders, smoking cigarettes and sputtering lines that only he could get away with. He doesn’t steal the show because he IS the show and at times, it’s distracting.
Bryan Cranston plays Dalton Trumbo, a Hollywood screenwriter who was blacklisted in the 1940’s for being a Communist. He and other writers, known as The Hollywood 10, were banished (Trumbo even did jail time) and forced to write under pseudonyms to make money. That is when Trumbo penned 2 Oscar winning films, and under different names.
There are some wonderful performances in Trumbo, namely John Goodman as Frank King, the low-budget filmmaker who hires blacklisted writers. He’s like a tank, plowing through a stable of Hollywood suits. I also loved Louis CK as the frustrated idealist, Arlen Hird. He had one of my favorite lines in the whole film, when he scolded Trumbo for constantly speaking in what sounded like movie-dialogue. That brings me to my biggest problem with Trumbo, though. Did Dalton Trumbo really talk and act like that? Was he really such a character? Because Cranston seems to have trouble keeping up with all of his affectations. I often felt like I was watching Bryan Cranston try really hard, as opposed to the natural ease we usually get from him.
Trumbo tells an interesting story, and I enjoyed the film-history lesson. It was also nice to see Hollywood greats like Lucille Ball and Gregory Peck speak out against the blacklist when it was dangerous to do so. My favorite scenes in the movie, however, were of Trumbo “The Family Man.” He seemed to take his children as seriously as his craft and that’s why I’m ultimately giving Trumbo a B. I also encourage you to stay through the credits to see an interview with the real Dalton Trumbo. Hearing the man himself talk about his kids had me bawling like a baby as I walked out.