Movie Review: Vice
Rating: 2 Stars
Puzzled. Bewildered. Questioning. Those are the first three emotional responses I had after finishing Adam McKay’s hotly debated and controversial political biopic hit piece Vice.
I’ll never be the first to claim I’m right about everything or anything, but when you present a story that lives in a realm of somewhat truths, your film immediately becomes ripe pickings for extensive fact-checking. Hollywood misrepresenting events or people is no stranger to the industry, and it hasn’t stopped moviemakers before. Hanks has portrayed Captain Phillips and Sully to mass acclaim and appeal despite fabrications and characterizations in the stories.
Hollywood and the public love a good ‘mostly’ true story. I do too. Whether it be Argo or Moneyball or even Cool Runnings, I’m just as excited as you are. Sometimes I hit the internet for the full truths, sometimes I’d rather live in the ignorance of Hollywood lore and dramatization.
Vice’s biggest flaw is that I felt it necessary to read up on what did Vice portray correctly and incorrectly. The results are staggering. That’s why I can comfortably describe Vice as a hit piece, the film has no qualms in portraying Dick Cheney as a substantive evil force in America’s development and evolution in the 21st century.
While McKay’s recreation of Cheney has delusions of grandeur to the extent that Vice is ultimately propaganda, there are themes and contextual elements to McKay’s narrative that are true. The reality is with Vice, that McKay’s propositions of Vice President Cheney as a scheming shadowy mastermind responsible for the rise of politically charged cable news, the sole proprietor for ISIS’s rise to power, and being as powerful as the President of the United States, are all too far-fetched… but they make for a hell of an entertaining story. Especially told in McKay’s visually stimulating narrative.
If Adam McKay seems like a familiar directorial name, well you’ll be glad to know he was the director of Talladega Nights, Anchorman, Step Brothers, and recently The Big Short. McKay is a renowned Saturday Night Live writer. It’s no stretch to say that McKay is an established and entertaining writer and director.
If Vice is a satirical period piece that uses the life of Dick Cheney as a proxy for a fabricated fictional vice president, I think there’s merit in what McKay has done here. In McKay’s defense, nothing ventured, nothing gained. But as far as trying to send a message, I think Vice is a flat-footed attempt if you juxtapose its story with reality.
Vice is a fun fabrication with inspired performances and incredible makeup. Christian Bale as Dick Cheney goes full Day-Lewis into the role and Steve Carell is the most lively character as Donald Rumsfeld.
Jesse Plemons character is a civilian and omniscient narrator which is a spectacularly creative use of the role. There is a scene that happens in the film that implies some harrowing details that weren’t written about in any fact checked breakdown of the film so I would assume it was made up for drama.
Before writing my review, I also did something I rarely do and skim through some of the other reviews and I was fascinated to find how polarized even critics are by Vice. I think there are two different kinds of viewing experiences for Vice.
There are those that see McKay’s film strictly as political satire, a feature film version of a Saturday Night Live sketch that’s been fully fleshed out into a melodrama. Then there are those like myself who are intrigued by the movie but are wary of its themes and takeaways.
I guess there is a third group who probably despise this movie because it comes from a liberal slant but I would assume they knew what this movie was and didn’t watch it anyway. Or maybe they hate-watched it. Anyways.
I do think it is a little ridiculous that the Academy would put Vice in the running for Best Picture. If a well-made movie came out that illustrated Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the second coming of Stalin or whatever, I could guarantee you it would not be nominated for anything except maybe Best Makeup if Zoe Saldana is transformed into AOC (at least she wouldn’t be concealed in damn alien makeup). And I would probably give it 2 stars if it was entertaining.