Review of Lincoln written by Tony Kushner and directed by Steven Spielberg
Rating *** 1/2
I’m giving this film a three-and-a-half rating out of five. And for those who follow this blog, they might know that at year’s end when I put together the best of Everything Nonfiction list, only reviews of four stars or more make the list. This is not one of my favorites of the year.
I am a big Steven Spielberg fan. He is absolutely one of the best directors around. But the truth is the director is only as good as the script, and this script had a host of problems. Now I know a lot of people are going to disagree with me, and for you people I encourage you to speak your mind using the comments feature.
In a lot of nonfiction movies, I often criticize the filmmakers when they stray from the truth or they make egregious factual errors. That certainly is not the problem with this film. I appreciate the attention to detail that this film had and thus the three-and-a-half star rating. My biggest problem is that the dialogue was so unnatural and verbose that the entire film felt like actors reading from a book rather than a recreation of an historical event. Now when I have mentioned that criticism of the film to others, one retort I have heard is that much of the dialogue was taken directly from transcripts of the actual congressional hearings. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but there are times when the actual dialogue can be boring. Who wants to sit through two hours of politicians bickering.
The film got off to a bad start for me with the recital of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address by four different actors. Talk about overly dramatic. I thought I was watching a stage play. Every other scene had some long speech in which the actor recited lines that seemed written for the sole purpose of winning some acting award. People don’t talk like that. People don’t act like that. People don’t go around yelling and screaming and making speeches every other minute. The goal of a film is to tell a story not win acting awards. And whose idea that watching a two plus hour political debate would make for a great film?
Remember the scene when Daniel Day-Lewis starts in on another one of his pointless stories and another actor gets frustrated and storms off. I wanted to storm off with him.