MOVIE REVIEW: Charlie Wilson’s War

Back on ML King Day, Carol and I went to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany. One must always take advantage of those times when the child is in day care and the parents both have the day off.
The goal in Roger’s Oscar roulette is to see as many Oscar-nominated films before the actual awards (this year: February 24), whether it’s a gala affair or Golden Globes press conference, part 2.

Charlie Wilson’s War is a Hollywood movie. I mean that in all the good and bad sense of that term. To the good, the production values are more than adequate; to the bad, it’s rather bland.

An early scene involves a number of naked women. Is this titillating? It is not. It was, surprisingly flat and boring. In fact, the film felt that way pretty much until Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character shows up. It’s comedic and has a certain energy; his Oscar nomination is deserved, for this and other roles this past year.

Tom Hanks is Tom Hanks. I don’t know what else to say.

Julia Roberts has taken a lot of heat, not just for this role, but somehow for her whole acting career. I thought she was fine in Erin Brockovich, playing a real person, (though Ellen Burstyn should have won for Requiem for a Dream that year, rather than Julia). And her hair looks A LOT like the real woman she is portraying. But here, her performance is rather flat, and I don’t know why.

If you don’t know, this movie is based on a real Texas congressman who found a way to fund the Afghans fighting the Russians. Much has been made of the ending, with some suggesting a more specific conclusion, telling the audience that the money shelled out for Charlie’s war helped in the development of the Taliban. I tend to disagree; the oblique dialogue between Charlie and the CIA man Gust (Hoffman) is enough, without it either 1) being preachy and/or 2) having to resort to that clumsy overlay technique of text at the end of the film telling you what happens next, used in films based on fiction as well as reality.

The story was written by the late CBS News producer George Crile, and the real Charlie Wilson appeared on 60 Minutes seven years ago. The average grade in Entertainment Weekly for this movie is a B. That’s just about right. It was by no means a terrible movie-going experience, but it wasn’t extraordinary, either. Maybe its lack of honesty and bite (except for Hoffman’s character) hurts it as a film as well.

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