Judging from the hosannas offered George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck at Wednesday’s press screening, we’re in for months and months of hype and supposed buzz and “preliminary Oscar talk” and general disconnection with whatever this modest film has to offer.
GN&GL, which opens the New York Film Festival this Friday, is a very slim affair, but effective at meeting its socio-political objectives. That, for a frustrated, Bush-beaten population of New York liberals (of which the packed press screening is somewhat representative), is all that’s required for instant, rapturous genuflection (and having a dashingly good-looking director/writer/actor who’s on our side doesn’t hurt). As polemic, GN&GL is understated, responsible and focused, taking a counterpath of sorts from last year’s Fahrenheit 9/11. And the path is made clear for Edward R. Murrow’s editorials, which well function as unforced prophesies of these wintry media times. All else is smoke-filled staccato buildups and smoke-filled back-slapping releases, always looking good and always feeling slim. Which really isn’t a problem except for that prolonged overpraise we’re in for.
It reminds me of Quiz Show, another wildly overpraised examination of fifties television directed by an A-list movie star. Good Night, and Good Luck might be a better and ultimately more politically useful film, but it’ll likely be as inessential ten years from now as that Rob Morrow vehicle. But today all I’ve got to report is a thin little watchable argument for the need for an adversarial American press, well shot and well acted in ways that any American moviegoer can latch onto and report to friends, “the acting was great – the cinematography was great too,” and wholly undeserving of the pavlovian, publicly professed praise it received from pre-eminent film scholars and critics at the ensuing press conference. A particular Columbia University Professor/Author/ubiquitous DVD Commentator lept from her seat to thank Clooney for “one of the best films of the year.” Wow. Well, you know, it’s only September. And, well, I haven’t seen her at any other NYFF screening. Death of Mr. Lazarescu? L’Enfant? Sure, she and we and I should all be forgiven our spontaneous excitement, and we all want a tougher press corps, and there’s something intriguing about this ex-TV actor turned international star directing movies about faded TV personalities, and we all think more movies should be shot in black and white, but how much do we really care about film if this slim picture with the big names gets all our love?