Vice | Directed by Adam Mckay | Comedy | R | 2 H 12 MIN
Written by Anton Charpentier
The title of the film seems apt in describing the oeuvre of McKay’s comedies. It’s no secret to those I know that “The Big Short” is on my list of favourite films of all time. The films use of montage editing is perhaps the most exciting editing we’ve seen all decade. McKay continues this trend in “Vice”, providing another stimulating and hilarious film to watch. I wouldn’t recommend the film as much as “The Big Short”, but it’s a damn fine film. McKay once again makes what seems to be the most mundane topic, or this case man, into one of the most intriguing narrative rides this year. It’s not a perfect film, and often falters from its ambition and length, but for the most part it’s hard not to have a great time watching this film.
The film is obviously heavily critical of Cheney and his administration, placing the blame on our current political climate on a lot of Cheney’s actions. The film obviously makes Cheney out to be the bad guy, yet, for most of the film, you kind of think he’s one of the smartest and actually empathetic guys in world. A large amount of the emotional impact of the film rests on the story of his relationship with his daughters, especially Mary, who eventually reveals to her parents that she is a lesbian. Surprisingly, the first one to comfort her is Cheney (Christian Bale) and he’s ultimately incredibly supportive of her. For moment, Cheney becomes the hero of his own story. This is however, in a Shakespearian sort of way, gets overturned at the end of the film and we feel a deep sense of heartbreak.
Speaking of Shakespeare, the comedy of the film is certainly at the front and centre of the film. The narrative of the film is frequently broken for gags that reassure us that Will Farrell is a producer on the film. Perhaps the films humour could be seen as a fault, detracting from the seriousness of the situations presented; I strongly disagree. This isn’t an attack on Cheney or the administrations he served, instead it’s a story about humanity. In my mind, comedy, unlike drama has a much greater capacity for telling meaningful stories. When we laugh at Cheney, we sympathize with the characters realizing that we are not above them. I disagree strongly with the politics Dick Cheney represents, but after watching the film I see him as a human being rather than a caricature of radical government agendas. Instead, we see a man who becomes deeply corrupted by power and success because of his past failures.
A lot of buzz has been generated by the performance Christian Bale brings to the role of Dick Cheney. For the most part the buzz is correct in its praise, except when they say that he becomes invisible in the role; he does not and that’s the point. Bale yo-yos in and out of the role, evolving depending on the tone. It’s miraculous to watch and displays his command over the performance, perfect researched and expertly in control. This is best displayed in the in the scene where the dialogue is mimicking Shakespeare simply because no one could really say what actually happened at the moment. It’s at moments like this where we no longer see Cheney, and it’s akin to Bale showing up on Saturday Night Live. It’s genius, the film outwardly expresses its authenticity or lack of it, and when it cannot it pivots to absurdism. I love it.
This strong command is mirrored in McKay’s directorial prowess. His ability to depict comedy is a standout in his films, even when they deal with a more serious subject matter. The film isn’t perfection like its predecessor “The Big Short” (don’t @ me), but it does do an incredible job creating an interesting biopic that subverts expectations. I hope to see more from McKay in the near future as he tackles unique stories with a humorous and cinephilic edge. “Vice” is definitely worth your time and continues to prove that McKay is bringing comedy back to the award shows.
Watch the Official Trailer Below