|Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln|
A screenwriting friend of mine, Patricia Fox, complained to me about Spielberg years ago. I didn't know what she meant. But now I do.
"Spielberg spoon feeds the audience on how to think," she says. "And he uses the cheapest narrative trick constantly - deus ex machina."
In "Lincoln," I didn't notice the deus ex machina trick (a contrived solution to a plot dilemma), but when I wasn't nodding off, I was constantly aware of an uneasy feeling I had.
My uneasy feeling began when two Union soldiers took turns reciting The Gettysburg Address to Mr. Lincoln. This is how the movie opens. I just didn't believe it. Maybe this scene was well-researched and people were already memorizing Lincoln's beautiful words as early as 1865, but I found it a real stretch. I also felt that the scene was pandering to the audience - especially since the two soldiers doing the reciting happened to be black.
My uneasy feeling continued as Daniel Day-Lewis and others speechified and speechified. I will always be a Daniel Day-Lewis fan and I think I've seen all his movies, but yipes. He did the very best with what was given to him, but yipes.
Finally the movie was about to end. Great scene, I thought: Lincoln has achieved the passage of the 13th amendment (by hook or crook, mostly crook - that was interesting). He walks away - slowly - slowly - fading into the background.
GREAT ENDING, I thought. Lovely and sad. We all know what happens next.
BUT NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, I was wrong. Spielberg wrung out some more minutes of an already overly-long movie, making sure we knew Lincoln got kilt in the theatre. Now that I think of it, I remember thinking the same NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO at the end of "Saving Private Ryan," where we are forced to walk through the military cemetery full of headstones. Overkill, Mr. Spielberg, overkill.
I love Sally Field, but I really got tired of her ranting in every scene. The horrible dresses were hard to look at too, although I'm sure they were historically accurate.
The most emotion I felt was during the scene where Lee surrendered to Grant. It was a beautiful, not-overdone scene.
As we left the theatre, I began grousing about the film. My husband said, "It wasn't that bad."
"Is that why I had to punch you to wake you up?" I asked him.
I would recommend this movie as a history lesson, but not for pleasure. And be sure you go early in the day or after you've had a good long nap.
Teacher Gail's Grade: C+
Gail Grenier is the author of Calling All Horses, Dog Woman, and Don't Worry Baby, all available from Amazon.com.