Director Jay Roach who is best known for comedies like “Austin Powers” and “Meet the Parents” is back for something quite different. “Trumbo” is based on the true story of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted from the film industry and jailed for refusing to answer questions in Washington about his involvement with the Communist Party. Despite having a fantastic cast that includes Bryan Cranston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Alan Tudyk, John Goodman, and Louis C.K., and a capable director, “Trumbo” starts off pretty strong but winds up falling flat by the mid-way point.
In 1947 Dalton Trumbo (Cranston) was doing extremely well. He has just signed a studio contract that would make him the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood. He had a loving family and loyal friends who shared his political beliefs. Trumbo was not shy about letting people know about his politics and unfortunately most of Hollywood (and the country) didn’t share his beliefs.
Trumbo was announced as one of the Hollywood Ten and investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Shortly after, he served eleven months in prison as punishment for a contempt conviction. Once Trumbo was released, he had to work but couldn’t do anything else other than write. With the blacklist, no major studio would hire him. Trumbo turns to Hollywood B-movie maker Frank King (Goodman). For a much smaller payday, Trumbo offers to write schlock for King under a pseudonym. The projects start coming fast and hard, so Trumbo enlists the help of not only his family, but other blacklisted screenwriters.
“Trumbo” starts out quite good and the story of the blacklisted writers turning to Hollywood’s black market is quite interesting, but the more the film began to focus on Trumbo’s erratic behavior, mainly towards his family, the less interesting it became. I know this is part of the story, but the tone of the film began to shift with the change in the character’s personality. The supporting cast is fantastic. Most notably, John Goodman who is perfectly cast here. I love it when Goodman takes on a Hollywood character, like in the films “Argo”, and “Matinee”. Dean O’ Gorman transforms himself into Kirk Douglass and Christian Berkel is fantastic as “Spartacus” director Otto Preminger. I just wish “Trumbo” was as good as the sum of its parts.
By: Marc Ferman