Monday, June 16, 2008
Charlie Wilson's War (Mike Nichols, 2007) C+ (x2)
The first time I saw Charlie Wilson's War, I loved the irony of the whole situation- helping the Afghanis defeat the Soviets to end the Cold War but, in the end, turning them into enemies- and the sort-of "unholy alliance" that develops between Congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks), right-wing Texas socialite Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) and CIA agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman). This time around, I saw through all of that and what is left is a flimsy film at best. My main problem is the miscasting of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in their roles. To play someone who does a lot of boozing, hard drugs and partying, the last actor I would think of is Tom Hanks; he's way too babyfaced and all-American to be thought of as someone who would do that. It would be like seeing James Stewart snorting cocaine off a hooker; the pictures don't add up. And the Julia Roberts miscast is even more miserable since she doesn't even give a halfway decent performance. She's so concerned with that Texas accent that she forgets to give an emotion or feeling to the words she's saying (and the accent isn't even that good). My other problem is that the film is way too talky. There's too much verbal explanation and no visual storytelling. Mike Nichols' direction lacks any imagination whatsoever and you can't tell me that the words are so strong they didn't need much camera interpretation; just look at Nichols' own Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as proof that directing screenplays with a lot of talking don't need to be boring visually. A lot of people hated on Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar nomination and while I think he was the weakest of the nominees, he's still the only person in Charlie Wilson's War who completely fits his character. Sure, he's pretty much coasting through this, but I love a good scene stealer (I'm a diva, it's in my nature) and Hoffman can steal a scene with the best of them.