Let me start off by saying Michael is a history buff. I mean a serious student of history and someone who was really looking forward to this movie. I was looking forward to it too, because who wouldn’t want to see the gifted Daniel Day-Lewis take on one of our greatest presidents, with Steven Spielberg directing and Tony Kushner writing. So we went to last night’s screening with high hopes, despite being told there would be security present and we’d have to get TSA’ed and leave our cellphones in the car (none of that happened) and despite the early word that the film was “talky.”
But, oh my. What a ponderous experience. Day-Lewis is a marvel – the voice, the stooped posture, the weariness, the occasional joke teller, the long-suffering husband – but the movie is much too long and much too static, like a stage play. In fact, after the opening scene, I whispered to Michael, “I feel trapped in a high school production. Are they all going to speak in speeches?”
The answer was yes. The characters, with a few exceptions (a much-needed dose of levity from James Spader), spoke in speeches instead of dialogue that real people would speak, even politicians. Movies should be about storytelling, and Spielberg seemed more concerned with presenting Lincoln, the mythological figure. Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln was straight out of a Tennessee Williams play.
I came home last night tired and cranky and wishing I had better news about this one.