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In a series of interviews promoting The Upside, star Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) spoke out about the lack of acting opportunities for disabled actors, despite being an able bodied actor who just took one of those roles. In The Upside, Cranston plays Phillip Lacasse, a wealthy man with quadriplegia who becomes friends with an ex-con (Kevin Hart) serving as his caretaker. The movie is a remake of the acclaimed French hit The Intouchables, and in both the original and this American version, Lacasse is played by an able bodied actor. In lieu of having personal experience with the disability, Cranston told Yahoo News he spent time with a number of people with quadriplegia “to get to know what they were thinking and how they’ve adjusted in their lives, and, the level of happiness they could attain.”
Over the interview, Cranston attempted to defend himself by claiming there are no disabled actors with the level of fame that would draw viewers. “The real business dynamic of [hiring an able bodied actor] is the choice of the studios to try to see if they can make an investment into a film that could bring a return,” Cranston said. “Are there any actors who have reached any kind of star status to be able to be considered? I think by not coming up with an answer to that is the answer to that. There is a dearth of opportunity for actors with a disability.”
But Cranston does not address the way he perpetuates this same cycle he is critiquing and benefitting from. Though he claimed to lend his celebrity status to the story in the hopes that it would reach broader audiences, his decision to play Lacasse has also prevented a lesser-known disabled actor from getting the opportunity to play the role and gain celebrity. It’s no wonder, then, that disabled actors in Hollywood have a hard time landing enough roles to amass the name recognition of a franchise leader like Cranston.
But the landscape is slowly changing, and diversity advocates have been shining a light on disability. Netflix’s original series Atypical revolves around a teenage boy with autism trying to find love. It was criticized in 2017 for only having one actor in a supporting role who’s on the spectrum and exaggerating some of Gardner’s symptoms. But its second season was better received after the show hired more autistic actors and a consultant to address the community’s concerns. Media outlets have also raised awareness about the lack of visibility for disabled people. Teen Vogue made a splash when three disabled models graced the cover of their September issue, which came with videos about how they were discovered and stories of what it’s like to work as a disabled model.
In a couple of hours from the time I write this, President Donald Trump will have a televised speech focusing on the border wall he hopes to build. This speech, as many of his other actions have done, will divide families, friends and the nation.
The movie “Vice” will have the same reaction, although I doubt many conservative viewers will see it. Our local theater wasn’t banking on a full house either, as the film was showing in a corner theater that might be the smallest one they have. Considering there were maybe 15 of us in that showing, they probably figured right.
“Vice” is the tale of Dick Cheney’s rise to power and the ruthless, vindictive way he manipulated the country and the world, at least according to the filmmakers. The movie is uber aware of the fact it’s got the power to further divide its audience. There’s a brief post-credit scene in which a focus group is basically acting out the behavior of the nation, with conservative members flinging liberal pejoratives like “libtard” or “snowflake” — honestly, I can’t remember, but you get the gist — and liberal members talking about the orange Cheeto that had been elected to the highest office in the land.
I didn’t go to the movie for political reasons or for the award nominations it’s garnered — Christian Bale won a Golden Globe on Sunday night for his portrayal of Dick. No, I was curious about the film, but I was still a little bit worried I’d be bored. (I was a political science major in college, but it’s been a very long time since politics were at the forefront of my brain.)
I seriously underestimated director Adam McKay, who also wrote the film. “Vice” is a funny, fast-moving tale that takes us from Dick’s youth as a drunken rabble rouser through his political rise to power, eventually ending at vice president under George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell). It’s a bit depressing at times, but it’s still funny in that black comedy, laugh or cry-out-loud kind of way.
Amy Adams plays Lynne Cheney, a woman as power hungry and determined as her husband. In 1963, after she’s picked Dick up from the drunk tank, Lynne tells him that he must do what she can’t. It was a time when women couldn’t hold office, run companies, etc., and she tells him that he must do all the things she is unable to do. It’s not her ambition that holds her back, but her sex. Whether it’s her threats of leaving him or simply the fact he realizes he’s a loser, Dick embarks on a different path. It’s one that will lead him to intern for Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) and eventually take him up through various positions from White House chief of staff to Wyoming’s congressional representative to secretary of defense.
According to the film, Dick picks his party based on his appreciation of Rumsfeld’s charisma, candor and lack of pretense. Together, the two would start wars, kill countless Iraqi soldiers and civilians, destroy careers and do whatever they wanted, until a softer, gentler, more politically correct attitude took hold. When either Dick or Rumsfeld had power, each made sure the other had a place near him and vice versa. Of course, their friendship was only strong as long as each man proved himself useful to the other.
The four actors I’ve named so far all give masterful performances. Many have found it hard to believe that Bale is under the bald fatness that is Dick Cheney. And, of course, Adams and Carell knock it out of the park in every role they take on. Their characters never really adapt or grow, but they’re still fun to watch. Lynne Cheney takes each of her husband’s successes as if they were her own, and in a way, they are, as she’s behind him every step of the way. There’s a bit of a who’s who in the rest of the cast with cameos by Naomi Watts and Alfred Molina. Jesse Plemons has a prominent role as the film’s narrator and “family” member.
However, it’s not just Dick Cheney’s professional life that is on display. The film also delves into his personal life, including his daughter Mary (Alison Pill) wreaking a bit of career homicide when she comes out as gay, and his mother-in-law’s mysterious drowning. These moments aren’t at the forefront of the film, but they add some depth to the man, as we watch Dick joke with daughters only to be chastised by Lynne for teaching them to be “silly” or see him tell his father-in-law — who possibly killed his wife — to stay away from Lynne and his daughters permanently.
All in all, “Vice” is an engaging experience, one that frequently amazes with its breaking of the fourth wall, irreverent title cards, off-the-wall narration, Shakespearean soliloquies and much more. It really feels like McKay and the rest of his team throw everything but the kitchen sink at you. And, it keeps everything interesting and lively. How much that works for you is likely a matter of political affiliation and storytelling preferences; but, considering this is primarily a work of art and not a political manifesto, it is far more watchable than many historical dramas, even if it is ultimately less of an achievement than this week’s other film, “The Favourite.” Consider yourself warned.
The Sopranos is currently celebrating the 20th anniversary of its premiere on HBO, and in honor of the big 2-0, show creator David Chase shared some juicy details about the upcoming Sopranos prequel movie, The Many Saints of Newark—namely, that young Tony is going to play an important role, Deadline reports.
“I was interested in Newark and life in Newark at that time,” Chase told Deadline in an interview about IFC’s Sopranos anniversary film festival. “I used to go to down there every Saturday night for dinner with my grandparents. But the thing that interested me most was Tony’s boyhood. I was interested in exploring that.”
The movie isn’t just going to be some Muppet Babies version of The Sopranos following Tony and a young Paulie Walnuts who still inexplicably has the same hair as a child, though. The Many Saints of Newark is set during the race riots that broke out in Newark, New Jersey, in the late 1960s, and will likely focus on Tony’s dad, Johnny Boy, and his uncle Junior Soprano’s heyday chopping off fingers in the mafia, as well.