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Spotlight

14 Nov

Spotlight – directed by Tom McCarthy. Drama. 128 minutes Color 2015

★★★★★

The Story: “Spotlight,” the investigative reporting crew of The Boston Globe,” probes the Catholic priests molesting youngsters and the church’s hiding it.

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The difficulty actors face in playing writers is that the writer’s instrument reserves, the actor’s instrument reveals. Writers always keep the real story to themselves. Actors never do.

Thus we have the main journalists, John Slattery, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo all behaving like actors and the non-journalists, such as Billy Crudup, behaving as whatever their characters may be.

Stanley Tucci, for instance, gives a performance so justly calibrated that it stands out as brilliant next to actors being journalists. His playing a non-writer, a lawyer, impatient of fools and wastrels, which at first he believes these journalists to be, gives us a human being. And what is true of him is true of all the other non-writer characters in the piece, all of whom, like Crudup and Len Cariou as Cardinal Law, Neal Huff moving as a molestation survivor, and all the Boston locals, are remarkable.

Liev Schreiber, however, playing the editor-in-chief, actually creates a character, a man soft-spoken, stolid, gracious, and guarded of speech. The other actors have not taken the trouble to create characters. They simply act off of their technique.

This is especially true of Mark Ruffalo who acts his part all over the place, not realizing that though his character in real life may have done the same thing, he didn’t look like an actor doing it. Ruffalo has always been rather a ham – in film a ham means that where once overacting meant gesticulating with the arms, it now means gesticulating with the face. Will he ever stop pressing his lips to express stuff? If he did we could see his eyes, which are wonderful.

But this foible is understandable. Since there are no fully developed long scenes in the track-down, no main actor has the chance to stand before us as a character. Each scene is about The Next Bit Of Information. The script is expository from start to finish. This means it is by definition not dramatic. The actors think they have to rev things up to make them so. They are mistaken. They do not trust the information, which, just because it is expository, does not mean it is not stunning.

Exposition, of course, does belong in plays, and exposition scenes can be great. Greek tragedy is full of them “Attention, attention must be paid…” are words from a famous one in Death Of A Salesman. An exposition scene catches you up on what’s happened so far.

But a play usually has but one of them.

This play has, of necessity, a passel. For it is about the conveying to the characters and to the audience the next piece of information. As, for instance, The Cardinal knew. Wow! A list of priests exists. Wow! 79! Wow! What the congregants did about it. Wow! How were the young children affected by it. Wow! What we did then. Wow!

This information is well presented. The movie is a treasure hunt looking for a skull. But, since we know already that the skull was found, what it has to offer is the ins and outs of the chase, which are not generally known. This is the way we got around the court order. This is the way we got them to release the documents. This is the way we went door-to-door.

The movie never moves off its back-stage premise, the hunting camp, and that’s a real good thing, a great strength of the picture. It is never objective; it is always subjective.

Its general subject, the sexual violation of children – hidden, overlooked, not believed or admitted to – remains keenly important. It is well to witness the difficulties faced by honest men struggling to bring the truth of the matter to light – the molestation of children being the greatest of human wrongs.

 

 

 
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Posted in Billy Crudup, John Slattery, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton

 
 
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