Lost Message

The Post
Stars: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Carrie Coon, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood and Matthew Rhys
Director: Steven Spielberg
Scriptwriters: Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
Composer: John Williams
Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski
DreamWorks Pictures
Rating: PG-13
Running Length: 116 Minutes

“The Post,” referring to the Washington Post newspaper, is certainly a Steven Spielberg production. Cue the music...oh, it’s  John Williams. Party sequences...enter designer clothes.  Stop the presses.....This film could have been a documentary, rather than a movie. The stars seem stifled in their performances and the dialogue is ordinary. “The Post” has an important message to deliver to the audience---when do you draw the line as to what you publish? Pertinent during the Nixon Administration and pertinent now.

The following films of the past were top newspaper films. Of course, there is Orson Welles “Citizen Kane” (1941) about the power of the press in a political campaign. “The Front Page” (1974) with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau dealt with deadlines and deadpan humor. “All The President’s Men” (1976) starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, showed what Bob Woodard and Carl Bernstein went through with Deep Throat. “The Public Eye” (1994) had a jazz soundtrack, showing what a photo journalist goes through for a story. Russell Crowe’s film, “State of Play”  (2009) dealt with catching a killer, and Michael Keaton‘s “Spotlight“ (2015) gave us the toll those long hours had on family when you investigate the Church.  

“The Post”  story follows the trail of someone secretly getting files (later called the Pentagon Papers) to the Washington Post. It is during the Vietnam War and was the U.S. even supposed to be in Vietnam? Secrets are revealed. First, the group, with Katharine Graham (Meryl  Streep) as Publisher and Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) as Editor, have to verify authenticity, so various reporters go out on the trail. Tom Hanks version of Ben Bradlee is that Ben always looks busy. Then comes, trying to decide whether to publish the secret documents or not. Do you keep with standard issue or go for broke? Graham circulates in high society so she can get opinions there, while the regular press go to their favorite places for comment. In the end, a decision has to be made.  It is crucial for Graham, as she heads this newspaper conglomerate and as a woman, she senses she has little power. The men in her circle treat her as a woman and not as a leader. The scenes are set as though scenes in a play. You have Katharine Graham at a party, then Ben Bradlee at a meeting, then phone calls and on it goes.

The 1970’s were about women’s liberation and yet when it comes down to the cutting edge of politics and what to do with relevant news, a woman’s view is not always heeded. Streep’s performance is not forceful here, it is paced, as with the rest of the cast. What you expect they will do...they do. It’s like conducting a piece of music from beginning to end with nary a bit of emotion.  You do get the sense of newspaper competition for that scoop and that headline. This was a time when reading a paper newspaper really mattered. It just doesn’t show all the way through the film.

Copyright 2018 Marie Asner