| September 23, 2020
Now and again, after a lot of digging – and we are doing more digging than ever – you find a simple, perfect gem. Such is The Comey Rule.
We have been down this road before. And not without some real aesthetic value. There is an entire series of films by Oliver Stone, but the most similar in immediacy was W., a film of mixed strengths and weaknesses. Just last year we had the dueling looks at Roger Ailes and Fox News with Bombshell and The Loudest Voice. We have gone to various forms of reality with Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the best being The People v. OJ Simpson, though that took 20 years of simmering before it came together in such a thoughtful, complex way. Bernie Madoff has been dramatized multiple times. Jack Kevorkian. Steve Jobs has 2 films in the can already.
What draws you in so profoundly in The Comey Rule is that Billy Ray, who wrote and directed based on Comey’s autobiography, never asks the audience to go far from the indisputable. Like who you like. Hate who you hate. You can argue all day long about whether you believe the motivations that are presented fro each character in this limited series… or really, whether the various individuals believe the motivations that are offered or are liars. But you can’t fairly walk away from this show claiming that Billy Ray is “taking Comey’s side” or “going easy on Hillary” or whatever posture you take into the viewing.
If you have convinced yourself that the FBI and everyone working for Obama before Trump arrived were openly conspiring against Trump from the beginning because they hated Trump, yeah… you will be disappointed. You are also somewhat delusional. But that movie won’t get made for a few years yet.
Unlike Stone’s W., no one is really doing an imitation in The Comey Rule. Brandon Gleeson, obviously, has a lot of make-up in playing Trump. But his performance will be the most subtle take on Trump you will ever see. And really, it’s rather sympathetic. He isn’t the lunatic currently on display, barnstorming the contested states spewing insane accusations and self-indulgent lies. This is early Presdient Trump, arriving in Washington with his ideas of how the world should work and feeling his way through.
The theoretical lead of the story, Comey, played by Jeff Daniels is a variation on Daniels, not remotely a detailed approximation of Comey. For starters, Daniels is a lanky 6′ 3″… but Comey is 6′ 8″ and usually has the awkward physicality which that height offers. I was looking forward to the scene of Comey trying to hide in the curtains of the Oval. I have no idea whether Billy Ray considered it, but I could understand that it wouldn’t have felt the same without a gawkily tall guy.
All the players you have probably read about are there. And there is that moment when you are amused by the casting of somewhat familiar actors in most roles. But they take their place in an ensemble that lives the story, not as dramatically as an Aaron Sorkin might have made it or masked in mystery like Oliver Stone, and all become as banal and frustrating as any workplace drama.
The portraits of power ebbing and flowing, whether a very subtle Holly Hunter as Sally Yates or Michael Kelly as a hard-edged and driven Andrew McCabe or Scoot McNairy as a more-political (non-party)-than-he-suggests Rod Rosenstein. Strzok and Page (Steven Pasquale and Oona Chaplin) each has a very strong personality, fallibility, and a sex life that gets in the way. And Amy Seimetz is the glue in the FBI office, playing Trisha Anderson, who is the arbiter of legal truth for both the office and the audience.
It makes sense… but it is also clearly a dramatic choice that Billy Ray doesn’t introduce Trump until the very end of the ninety-five-minute long first episode of the twi-parter.
Gleeson’s turn here is like a subtle, perfect custard. An endless treat. But you need that first 1:35 to prepare yourself for this new, game-changing character. Also, the first half is really about Comey and the Hillary Clinton (who is not dramatized) e-mail drama. So it is hardly inconsequential. It is what establishes the baseline, high and low, for the next 2 hours.
The secret sauce for The Comey Rule is Comey’s home life, where his wife is played by the always-great Jennifer Ehle. Her role reminded me greatly of Patricia Clarkson in The Untouchables. Not quite as ethereal. And in this case, a strong voice with a strong sense of the history into which her husband is wading.
There is something oddly comforting and deeply shocking about reliving the time that The Comey Rule covers. Four years later, it feels almost quaint, as so many strings coming from those early days have gone in so many previously incomprehensible directions.
Billy Ray is the superstar here. Jeff Daniels as Comey is in a rather thankless role, though he does as well as I can imagine with it. Brendan Gleeson should be a prohibitive favorite for Emmy next year (or maybe thinking of anything Trump will be too much for voters). Chaplin, Seimetz, Kelly, and McNairy all get enough screen time and big enough challenges to be remembered for years to come, while other great actors doing wonderful work just aren’t in showy enough roles to have much more than the pleasure of having been part of this.
An epic of restraint. Can’t wait to watch it again.
| September 23, 2020
| September 17, 2020
| September 16, 2020
“Half a century ago, my father made a body of work that shocked the art world. Not only had he violated the canon of what a noted abstract artist should be painting at a time of particularly doctrinaire art criticism, but he dared to hold up a mirror to white America, exposing the banality of evil and the systemic racism we are still struggling to confront today.My father dared to unveil white culpability, our shared role in allowing the racist terror that he had witnessed since boyhood, when the Klan marched openly by the thousands in the streets of Los Angeles.”
Four Museums Postpone Philip Guston Career Retrospective, Saying His Anti-Klan Imagery Does Not Belong In This Moment
| September 25, 2020
"On September 10, James Packer’s $200 million megayacht IJE was harbored in Tahiti, where it was scheduled to stay for three months. A bailiff attempted to board the luxury liner to serve the film producer and financier and was told to return the following day because Packer was not there. When the bailiff returned, IJE was pulling out of the harbor and heading to Bora Bora with the Australian billionaire onboard. Meanwhile, in Bulgaria, a process server was attempting to serve Millennium Films CEO Avi Lerner at his Eastern Europe studio. Simultaneously, disgraced film producer Brett Ratner and former Warner Bros. chief Kevin Tsujihara were served at their homes in Los Angeles. Sources say the four men were notified of a petition filed September 3 in Los Angeles Superior Court by a woman named Melissa Parker, who was facing off against Clark Grandin, Bruce Hamilton, Gregory Kemp and Walter Nelson. The names wouldn’t ring a bell with anyone in the Hollywood community. That’s because they are pseudonyms, with Parker being a stand-in for Charlotte Kirk — the British actress at the center of a scandal that has led to the ouster of two studio executives from their top perches, Tsujihara and NBCUniversal chief Ron Meyer. The defendants are, in fact, Ratner, Tsujihara, Packer and Lerner. The men have used these pseudonyms in legal documents since 2017 in an attempt to shield their identities amid explosive claims."
| September 25, 2020
Aaron Sorkin: "When you bring home a puppy, it’s said you should get a crate that is big just about big enough for the puppy to move around. That confined space will make the puppy feel secure. It’s the same with me. I like the four walls of the court and the office. I only have one movie under my belt, Molly’s Game, which had three principal characters. This film has eleven stars, most of whom are leads in their own movies and it has riots and teargas scenes. That’s not part of the puppy crate. Just writing the words, 'Exterior: Scene' on a screenplay makes me dizzy.... When I left Spielberg's house [in 2006], I called my father because I didn’t know about the events Steven was referring to. I said yes because it was Steven and he said there was a trial, so I thought courtroom and that was enough.”
| September 25, 2020
Jonathan Lethem: "The sensation of sitting alone in the theater is one I compulsively compare to going to a brain laundromat. I’m there to have my brain rinsed in the stream of images. I specify “compulsively” because I think of this comparison every time I go. Watching a big screen in the dark relaxes and restores me, and takes me out of the realm of criticism and language that too often overtakes my pleasure at the immersive flow of reading. Those personal “sites”—immersive reading, dreamy-attentive moviegoing—are primal for me, and sacred."
September 24, 2020
| December 13, 2019
| December 4, 2019
| December 4, 2019