One of the last shoes to drop in this year’s Oscar race just dropped.
Annapurna skipped the Fall Festival circuit and decided instead to take over the Bruin Theatre in Westwood today to put Adam McKay’s Vice (just finished a couple of days ago) out to the world. Judging by the reaction to this afternoon’s unveiling, you can probably expect to not only see nominations for stars Christian Bale – who, for lack of a better word, simply inhabits Cheney – and Amy Adams, equally great as Lynne Cheney. But there’s also several other potential categories in contention, including Picture, McKay in screenplay and directing, Editing, Original Score (by Nicholas Brittell), and supporting actor Sam Rockwell, who is hilarious and right on as George W. Bush.
In fact the entire cast is sensational right down the line, including Steve Carell’s wryly and pathetically amusing Donald Rumsfeld. If ever a movie fits the definition of SAG’s Outstanding Cast award, it is this one.
There is an embargo on reviews until closer to the film’s Christmas Day opening (and I will do one then), but I can safely say this:
Consistently entertaining and wildly original biopic is not only a chilling account of the desire, use – and abuse – of Washington D.C. power (particularly the President’s) but also a fiercely intelligent observation of just how we got to where we are today. Oh, and did I say it is a comedy? That is where the Golden Globes are placing it , and it is correct, despite many serious moments laced with actual news footage (including the events of 9/11). I laughed throughout much of this fact-based satire disguised as a linear biopic, and can only say McKay has found ways to get his message across that oddly can be seen completely differently on both sides of the aisle. Some will applaud this Cheney, others will revile him, and that is as much a statement of how divided the formerly United States has become.
It’s a fascinating take, and many in the lobby afterwards were still trying to process it and decide exactly what they think of what they just saw. McKay’s previous collaboration with Bale, The Big Short, resulted in a screenplay Oscar for McKay, as well as nominations for Picture and for Bale in Support. No reason to think after seeing this exceptionally smart study of the Cheney empire and his manipulation into becoming the single most powerful VP of all time will not be similarly received in its own way.
Afterwards, McKay, Bale, Adams and Tyler Perry, who plays Secretary of State Colin Powell in a small but significant role, sat for a quick Q&A moderated by Dave Karger. Discussing how he was approached for the role, Bale said he was surprised, to say the least. “My agent said, ‘Oh, Adam wants to send you something that I think is about Dick Cheney,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, I wonder what part he is thinking of me for?’ And then we just had a deal. Of course, it is a crazy idea to see Christian Bale as Dick Cheney. But it was also almost an impossible challenge,” he said, describing how he got so involved in the research that no matter what he did, it could be the worst mistake , the worst casting ever. “Adam is batshit crazy and brilliant.”
Bale, in what turns out to be one of the best castings ever, also told a very funny story about part of that research involving his iPhone, which has a feature that gathers the most popular people that you have photos of. “And when you look at my iPhone, people, it is my wife, my son, my daughter, and Dick Cheney! ” he laughed. And when asked if he was now going to delete those photos of Cheney, he said that he actually had very good memories of making the film, so he’s probably going to keep him in the family, so to speak.
Neither Bale nor Adams obviously got face time with the Cheneys (this is not exactly an authorized biopic). But Adams noted that there was a ton of material available to her on Lynne (described in a question as the puppet master behind the puppet), and that, in some ways, she reminded her of her grandmother. Perry actually did get to talk to Powell, which, he said, was very helpful. He said he wanted to do right by him and, though nervous about his reaction to his portrayal, thinks he will like it.
For McKay, this was a chance to do something a little different. “I think at a certain point, the norm became that we were just supposed to watch movies that were entertaining, or just watch movies that have explosions or laughs, and I am guessing I am just a bit of a nerd that I find this stuff really fascinating…one of the great things about film, and the history of film, is there are no rules. It is just, ‘Does it work? Does it fit a narrative emotional arc?’ So this was really emotionally freeing and exciting, to dive into stories from this different direction,” he said. We’ll be hearing a lot about this film as the season continues.
Annapurna , making a day of it, also took over the Bruin for a Saturday night screening, Q&A , and reception for one of their other three December releases, Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight follow-up, If Beale Street Could Talk, which I covered extensively at its Toronto Film Festival World Premiere, and it is another winner for them. Busy time.