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Monday, November 19, 2012

Spielberg's "Lincoln" - better than Sominex

Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln
Everyone is going to say "Lincoln" is a great movie, but I saw it last night and I have to say it's better than Sominex.

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


  1. Other than that, Mrs. Grenier, how did you like the movie?

    (J R Q)

    1. I appreciated the history lesson. I admired the acting and the attention to detail (loved the little brown paper packages tied up with string here and there). I love Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field. Just a note on the too-long length... My husband liked the movie much more than I did, but I had to remind him that at one point during the film, I had to nudge him to wake him up. It's just too long - with too many talking heads. It picks up during the last hour. Thanks for asking, Mr. JRQ!!