Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 125: Advise and Consent (1962) - Rank 5/5


While a little melodramatic and hokey at times, "Advise and Consent" is still a great, cinematic peek into the inner workings of Washington D.C., the dirtiness of politics and a demonstration of a fantastic ensemble cast at work to boot. Otto Preminger shot the story, deemed unfilmable at the time of its creation, absolutely flawlessly. He takes the humdrum addressing of minutia in the senate and injects it with enthralling tension (much the way that Alfred Hitchcock made a tennis match seem intense in "Strangers on a Train").

A dying President nominates a senator (Henry Fonda) for the position of Secretary of State after his previous one dies suddenly (quite the unhealthy White House crew). When he does, the gloves come off on both sides of the aisle. Readily opposed to the nomination is a senator from the same party, a silver-tongued, forty year veteran of the office for South Carolina. This role is played with smug glee and a drawl to kill by Charles Laughton to the point that you both hate this character as well as love every moment he's on screen (a performance that certainly deserved a Best Supporting Actor nod). He butts heads with the Senate Majority leader (Walter Pidgeon) and soon a subcommittee is formed to decide whether the President's choice will be selected.

Soon, strings are pulled, the candidate accused of Communism, the subcommittee leader (Don Murray) is blackmailed, threats are exchanged, the President's health suffers, and everything from suicide to gay bars work themselves into the equation. I'd held off on watching this film that my brother recommended for some time simply because I find most political thrillers too tedious and focused on the legal mumbo jumbo of the situation (examples: "All the President's Men" and "The Contender." While I don't deny that both are decent films, I also don't deny that they have a sleep-inducing effect on me). But under the expertise direction of Otto Preminger, as well as supporting roles featuring Betty White, Gene Tierney and Burgess Meredith, the story unfolds in such a manner that you couldn't have tore me away from the screen had you tried. Too bad Preminger went on from "Advise and Consent" to this...


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