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Rob Edelman: Vice...

VICE is a Hollywood biopic that every American, whatever one’s politics, should be seeing and pondering. This sharply-told, take-no-prisoners pitch-black comedy is an eye-opener, to be sure. It is of course a biopic of life and times in the present-day Oval Office. And historically-speaking, presidential biopics usually center on the president, the person holding the power from Lincoln to FDR to Barack Obama. Here, however, President George W. Bush, played by Sam Rockwell, is a secondary character. He appears onscreen at the outset as little more than a drinking buddy, a guy who was born into wealth and who would have been more adept as baseball commissioner than U.S. president. A decade ago, Oliver Stone charted the life history of George W. in W.

Now the story of VICE is the story of Dick Cheney, Bush’s vice president. And here, writer-director Adam McKay defines Cheney: where he comes from; how he went on to be who he is; and his impact on our country. For after all, historically-speaking, Dick Cheney is a mystery man whose influence on President Bush should not be obscured or overlooked. This film brings Dick Cheney out of the shadows and emphasizes his impact on the American scene from the early 1960’s through 9/11 and beyond.

VICE also combines the presence of real American politicians with actors playing those in Cheney’s inner circle. Steve Carell, for one, plays Donald Rumsfeld as an egomaniac. Tyler Perry plays Colin Powell as a victim. Amy Adams depicts Lynne Cheney as the woman behind the man, a wife who held untold influence on her husband. Without her formidable presence, Dick Cheney would not have risen to the heights both in business and in politics. This is yet another example of the too-often-overlooked power of women in American history.

One cannot predict the number of Academy Awards that VICE will grab. But I would bet that it surely will triumph for its make-up! First, take a look at a photo of Christian Bale, who is cast as Cheney. Next, take a look at one of the real Dick Cheney. Then, take a look at Christian Bale as Dick Cheney... Quite impressive, indeed!

Finally, the essence of VICE and the manner in which it depicts the evolution of Dick Cheney may be summed up in one sequence. It is set in a restaurant, it involves a menu, and it is far-better seen than described. Indeed, it is well-worth emphasizing: VICE is a film that every American, whatever one’s politics, should be seeing and contemplating...

Rob Edelman teaches film history courses at the University at Albany. He has contributed to many arts and baseball-related publications; his latest book, which he co-edited, is From Spring Training To Screen Test: Baseball Players Turned Actors. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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