State of Play (2009)

Dir. Kevin Macdonald
Starring: Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Ben Afleck, Robin Penn-Wright, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels, etc.

Penny would find this a good popcorn movie. Pretty much everyone else would at least find this mildly entertaining; the type of movie that would be acceptable if you were desperate to see something at the theater. To me, it’s not that great of a film, but it was sort of kept my attention.

The film is basically a political thriller involving journalists a la All the President’s Men, but no where near as good. I’m too lazy to go into the details of the plot, but I think the above sums it up fairly well. Someone told me that the film is examines journalism–and perhaps the examination in the TV series was a lot more insightful–but if it did, it was superficial.

Look at that cast. It’s so good, I went largely because of it. But I knew going in that there were possible explanations for this: 1.) They were desperate for money–and maybe chose this because of the other actors in the film; that is Helen Mirren signs on, which leads to Russell Crowe, etc.–a kind of domino effect; 2.) the script was really good or at least something interesting about it. I was hoping that it was the latter, but I don’t think so. Actually, since the film was based on a supposedly good British mini-series, I’m guessing this is the reason the stars signed on.

Unfortunately, the film is just not that good. The film really wastes the actors. The characters are flat and close to cliches. The dialogue is bland and the story gets confusing to the point where I really didn’t care. (Perhaps, they compressed the movie, too much, or they had the memory of the series in mind and forgot how much information the audience who hadn’t seen the series would need to know.)

One word about Jason Bateman. I’m really beginning to like him. His role in Juno and this film shows me that he’s an interesting actor, subtle. He should be given a shot as a lead in a serious drama/comedy. I could see him playing a young father of a suburban family or an everyman in a thriller. In some ways he reminds me of a cleaner, boy-next-door version of Mark Ruffalo. I look forward to seeing him in better roles/films.

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