Vice ★★★

(As it turns out, this was a weirdly appropriate follow-up the day after watching Icarus on Netflix.)

As much as I admire the boldness and originality, I wasn't sure that this "self-consciously smart, fourth wall-breaking mockumentary style comedy on not inherently funny topics" completely worked in The Big Short, and it works even less well in Vice.

For all of its stylistic flourishes and weird edits, the story and character of Dick Cheney is presented in a straightforward manner. It works better in the first half of the film when it goes into his backstory before becoming Vice President; it's informative, funny, and sometimes even sympathetic of young Cheney. But then it catches up to the more recent history that most of us remember witnessing in real time. And it's difficult to make any of that funny. There were a lot of horrible things going on during the Bush-Cheney administration. McKay seems to recognize the sensitive nature of these events too (he's not going to mine 9/11 or war or torture for laughs) so the comedy pulls back. But then that makes me think, what is the point then? What is he actually trying to accomplish overall, with this film? The movie can't seem to decide whether it wants to do an insightful portrayal of Cheney or to paint him as a villain. And then it abruptly remembers that this is supposed to be a comedy film and feels obligated to put in some gags, so it has weird things like the reveal of the identity of the narrator, which is anticlimactic and not that funny.

Both the end scene when Cheney addresses the audience and the mid-credits scene are just horrible awkward. It makes me even more confused as to the point the film is trying to make.

The reasons you should see this film anyway are the performances. Christian Bale, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, and many more all nail it. Amy Adams's portrayal of Lynne Cheney makes me grudgingly respect this strong, loyal, intelligent, and charismatic woman, however different our politics may be.

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