Monday, January 15, 2018

Forget Meryl, go for Tom

I went into The Post with a great deal of skepticism. All the buzz was about Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, which is fine but expected. I always found Mrs. Graham (as she preferred to be called) interesting and I appreciated her as a transitional feminist figure. But she inherited The Washington Post ... Her father retired and left it to her husband, not to her. She ended up as the owner/publisher when her colorful husband Phil committed suicide.

On the other hand, I've always been more than a little in love with Ben Bradlee. The smartest thing Mrs. Graham ever did was hire him. Brilliant journalist, legendary ladies man, war hero, raconteur ... sigh. Everything he did, he did with his own take-no-prisoners style. In The Post, he's played by Tom Hanks. A warm and versatile actor, to be sure. But I just didn't see him as Ben Bradlee.

Hanks is revelatory. Bradlee's sexy swagger is there. It comes in equal parts from knowing he's the coolest guy in the room, and his uncompromising commitment to quality and to doing what's right. This is an edgier, more serious, more adult Hanks than we loved in You've Got Mail. I still think the definitive Bradlee performance is by Jason Robards in All the President's Men, but Hanks is a delightful surprise.

You can't watch The Post without thinking of Donald Trump. For reasons all his own, our President is about to give out Fake News Awards. (The man who shamelessly lied about Barack Obama's birth and time at Harvard is suddenly a stickler for the truth, or his version of "the truth.") The audience in the theater with me literally applauded when the Supreme Court ruling regarding The Pentagon Papers was announced:

In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.