November, 2012

This new film, based in part on the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, chronicles the battle for passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which states, simply, that:  Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the United States.  Abraham Lincoln felt strongly about this, and he understood the power of the office of president;  he used lobbyists and political techniques as well as anyone.  The difference, though, is that Lincoln’s goals were decent and meant to move his country – our country – forward.  He was a republican and it was the democrats who were intransigent at that time.  Today lobbyists are more likely to be used to represent special interests, rather than the progress of the human condition.

So be it.  This film does portray Lincoln’s sense of humor and great storytelling ability.  He had great charm and compassion and was not at all above politics.  Winning passage of the 13th amendment was no easy task.  But it was right.

If you are a history buff, or you like wordy drama with little action, or if you are a Lincophile (alright, there is no such word - yet) then you will probably find this film worthwhile.  If you want entertainment you should paint your room and then watch it dry.    Then at least you will have a painted room.  But not to be too harsh;  it’s not a bad film.  Well-crafted by Stephen Spielberg, but certainly not a date movie.  Daniel Day Lewis does a fine job of re-creating Lincoln, although in response to some reviewers I must say that Lewis is not an Oscar shoo-in.  He is good, but not such greatness that the game is over.  Sally Field captures the depressed and slightly touched Mary Todd Lincoln, which I don’t think is a great stretch for her.  The lighting is suitably moody to suggest the period, but I don’t really care for that kind of dim lighting. 

So see it if you wish, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Three stars is a stretch.  Maybe because I like Spielberg and love Lincoln I am being a bit too generous.  If not for them, this film would be no better than two and a half.