Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fair Game

"Nothing But the Truth" by Rod Lurie viewed the revealing of Valerie Plame's CIA status behind a fictional lens and from the perspective of the person who wrote the explosive article. That was a disappointing and confused film, but, despite my objections, I feel ultimately that it had more going on than Doug Liman's "Fair Game." I fully expected that Liman (also his own bravura cinematographer) was going pull something much better off with this Cannes Competition entry, what with his choice to make it a fly-on-the-wall biopic rather than a fictionalization. But instead, the result is dreary, repetitive, and unsatisfying, a film that really doesn't go anywhere.

I have my qualms about Naomi Watts (chosen due to her close resemblance to Ms. Plame) in the lead role. She's tediously solemn, the polar opposite of Vera Farmiga's overacting in "Nothing." It's decent and everything, but it does the film no favors. We see her going off to a ton of different countries, like Malaysia and Iraq, trying to get lists of people involved with projects, always under an innocuous cover before she turns all CIA on the person she's with. She's a workaholic, often absent from home, to the detriment of her marriage to Ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn).

Wilson makes dinner parties and social gatherings less fun with his inability to keep himself from speaking his mind ("Have you ever actually been threatened by Saddam? Then you don't know what you're talking about."). He's also unable to contain himself after he's gone to Niger to investigate White Cake uranium. He hears Pres. Bush's State of the Union saying that there is indeed this sort of uranium in Africa (and thus a threat of nuclear weapon production), and must do his duty as an American to tell everyone that this stuff isn't there (in a New York Times article). He isn't thinking about what consequences will come from writing this. This isn't the article that brought Plame to her demise (although it definitely had an indirect effect), but one would be forgiven for thinking that, because the whole Judith Miller aspect of the scandal (the subject of "Nothing But the Truth") is left basically unexplored.

The film is at points moderately expansive, detailing relations in Iraq between Plame and a doctor and her brother (which ultimately and shatteringly fall apart) and also covering inside the government (with both Scooter Libby and, awkwardly, Karl Rove portrayed). Liman can't avoid an erratic tone in these portions. However, they do provide more stimulation than the reacting-to-television-clip and picking-up-the-phone scenes (unfortunately not like this) that are interspersed throughout. The film, parading Sam Shepard around on the way, drags to a conclusion that could easily be called a cop-out. When we're speaking in these terms, we know we don't have a success on our hands. C


Stephanie said...

It sounds like they tried to cram too many political figures and events into one film. I bet there is a lot of fodder for discussion, though, despite the flawed execution.

Nick Duval said...

There definitely is stuff to talk about, as would be with any Valerie Plame film. Hopefully a good movie is made about this, with a different approach than those that have already been taken.