I’m starting this double movie review about The Post and All the Money in the World with a picture of an old car on a cold day. Why? Because that’s how these movies start – and not because they’re period pieces that take place in the winter. Before the 1980s, car engines weren’t fuel injected (fuel injection is the introduction of fuel in an internal combustion engine by the means of an injector), so you needed to let them warm up for a few minutes before you could drive away. Compare that to today, when you only need to wait about 15 to 30 seconds, which is, of course, much faster.
And by that, I mean I want to talk about the act one pacing of The Post and All the Money in the World.
SPOILER ALERT: it’s too slow.
The closest theater to my house has changed hands a number of times throughout my life. It was a Lowes, then a Sony, then a Lowes again and so on. Now, it’s an AMC (because nearly every theater that has more than five screens in Bergen County, New Jersey is an AMC), but just before THAT, it was a Starplex Cinemas, and when they bought the theater, they tore out all the old seats and put in plush recliners which remain to this day.
And it is awesome.
On the other hand, if the movie you’re watching has pacing problems of the slow variety, one can find it difficult to keep their eyes open in such comfy confines. (COUGH Murder on the Orient Express COUGH) Such is the case with The Post and All the Money in the World. A big part of why these openings don’t work is the initial introductions to these characters just aren’t very interesting. On the other hand, as they are slowly (VERY. SLOWLY.) revealed to us through their choices, they become fascinating players in a story I care about, but man does it take a while.
Hence the old car on a cold day metaphor.
So how did this happen? Stephen Spielberg and Ridley Scott are both competent directors (one more competent than the other, but whatever) and the simple answer is making a movie is really hard. Another problem is both of these movies were rushed jobs. This doesn’t mean they don’t have quality performances, camera work, editing and so on, but movies are very complicated machines with a gazillion parts and it’s never a good idea to rush anything, let alone something complicated.
When it comes to All the Money in the World, I don’t have much to say – the movie starts out slow, it picks up later, Christopher Plummer and Michelle Williams ares excellent in it, it’s redundant and a bit uneven in its story telling and then the movie ends. It’s what I refer to as “extremely watchable.” The average rating on Rotten Tomatoes is 7 out of 10 and I would go as high as 7.5, maybe even 8 if you caught me in a good mood. (You’re not, I’m tired and hungry.) So even if I’m at an 8, if we remember back to our schooling days, that’s a low B, and I think that sounds about right. It’s worth seeing, but there’s nothing special or even new here – it’s just solid entertainment.
On the other hand, The Post seems to me to be a dereliction in the duty of choices by Spielberg and writers Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. This is the difficult thing with these sorts of ensemble movies – who’s the main character? Is it Meryl Streep, making a difficult choice, or is it Tom Hanks, navigating uncharted waters in an uncertain time, or maybe it’s Bob Odenkirk in the pursuit of the biggest story of his career? These are all important threads, but one doesn’t dominate and I think the movie suffers for it. While the threads Streep and Hanks are rollicking through are (relatively) compelling, they’re not especially cinematic. I would have chosen Odenkirk’s story and made him the lead of the movie, but let’s face it, that’s just not going to happen. Streep and Hanks are two of the biggest stars in the world right now (and have been for some time) and sure, Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul raised Odenkirk’s profile, but he’s not going to be the lead in a movie with Streep and Hanks. He’s just not. And these big ensemble movies are tough to pull off – most movies aren’t Spotlight or JFK. The average rating on Rotten Tomatoes for The Post is an 8 and I’d say that’s about right. I might go up to 8.5… but as previously mentioned, I’m hungry, so let’s just move on with our lives.
The Post and All the Money in the World are getting best picture and/or director nominations from the Golden Globes and the Oscars, which is kinda nuts. I know award shows are arbitrary by nature and they have to nominate something, but to mention these movies in the same sentence as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a waste of everyone’s time.