In Truth, Cate Blanchett plays journalist and TV news producer Mary Mapes in the story of the fallout from the CBS investigation into George Bush’s military service, that led to the resignation of Dan Rather. The performance was warmly recieved even if the film wasn’t widely seen, we examine why in the latest episode. Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with guest Kevin Jacobsen host of And The Runner-Up Is podcast.
What is the film about?
From IMDB: Newsroom drama detailing the 2004 CBS 60 Minutes report investigating then-President George W. Bush’s military service, and the subsequent firestorm of criticism that cost anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes their careers.
What year did it come out?
Who does Cate play?
Mary Mapes; TV news producer, and author. She is known for the story of the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, which won a Peabody Award.
How is Cate introduced?
Immediately as Mapes is hiring a lawyer who will represent her during an internal investigation that CBS is conducting, the set up for the flashback to the main story.
Box Office: Domestic = $2.5MM Int’l = $5.3MM
- Blanchett’s performance as the center holding the film.
- The movie is based on Mapes’ book Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power – does that make it inherently one-sided? Did we need to hear “the other side?”
- Awards wise – if this wasn’t the year of Carol could she have contended? Media seemed to think so in early fall post TIFF but the movie actually made no business. Is the performance worthy of awards?
- The filmmaking- James Vanderbilt has an interesting career. Wrote David Fincher’s Zodiac (2003), The Amazing Spiderman movies (2012-14) and Adam Sandler’s Murder Mystery (2019). Also produced many movies including another collaboration with Cate; The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018).
- Robert Redford as Dan Rather and the other actors – Elisabeth Moss, Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace.
- The movie was filmed in Australia to accommodate Cate, giving the opportunity to many Australian actors and crew, including a dynamite Noni Hazlehurst as Nicki Burkett. Hazelhurst previously played Blanchett’s mother in Little Fish (2005).
- Journalistic procedural similar to Zodiac and other classics of the genre like All the President’s Men and Spotlight – that was the ambition. How was the reality?
“Our story was about whether Bush fulfilled his service. Nobody wants to talk about that. They wanna talk about fonts and forgeries and conspiracy theories, because that’s what people do these days if they don’t like a story. They point and scream. They question your politics, your objectivity, hell, your basic humanity. And they hope to God the truth gets lost in the scrum. And when it is finally over and they have kicked and shouted so loud, we can’t even remember what the point was.”
Scenes we liked:
- Above monologue – shows Cate at her best.
- The tense tv interview with Col. Bill Burkett (Stacy Keach) – shows the different allegiances, priorities and the corporate machinations.
What seemed off:
- The morality tale is intriguing but perhaps the story itself is minor and does not warrant a film treatment?
- The exposition between Quaid and Moss where they explain Rather is Mapes’ “father figure.” The film hammers that connection, does it feel real? Much better is the scene in the hotel when they share a drink and he tells her he’ll apologize on camera.
What reviews said of film / Cate:
“Suffering only from a measure of familiarity when set beside the actress’s other work, Blanchett’s performance is forceful yet delicately shaded, and she renders Mapes with admirable complexity: We see a hard-working wife and mother who struggles to find time with [family], but also a tough-as-nails producer whose excitement outstripped her attention to detail at one crucial moment.” – Justin Chang, Variety.
“Blanchett makes us feel the creeping horror of professional disgrace, the fear and stigma, however unfair Mapes argues her treatment may have been. We watch a polished professional come apart at the seams, caught up in self-incrimination and spiralling neurosis. She’s in the form of her life at the moment.” – Tim Robey, The Telegraph.
“The weirdness of “Truth”—and, I fear, its involuntary comic value—arises from a disparity between the sparse and finicky minutiae of the narrative and the somewhat bouffant style of the presentation. As the program airs, those who have toiled on it are seen smiling in proud slow motion, while ordinary folk, all across the nation, in bars and in living rooms, stare up at their TV screens as if witnessing the descent of the Messiah. Later, when the report unravels, along with Mapes’s sang-froid, the film offers up as tear-streaked tragedy which is, in fact, a cautionary tale about photocopying, the moral being that you should check your information at the source. Vanderbilt has marshalled his material with scrupulous care, as he did when he wrote the script for David Fincher’s “Zodiac,” so how come that movie was twenty times more riveting? Partly because of Fincher’s scary visual command, and because deaths rather than deadlines were at stake, but also, I suspect, because the new film clings to the nagging thought that if the National Guard story had held firm the Presidential election—and thus recent history—might have followed a different path.” – Anthony Lane, The New Yorker.
Promotional work: Cate on Mapes for NY Magazine:
“I went online, as one does, and I saw this series of interviews Mary gave after the story had come out. I saw this quiet, defensive lockdown in her, and when I met Mary, I found it very difficult to reconcile this vivacious, hilarious, searingly intelligent and instinctual human being with that. I thought, somewhere between those two things, those two energies, lies the performance.”