Went to the movies over the weekend and was slightly entertained and mildly disappointed, all things considered. The film, “State of Play” was the film equivalent to McDonalds. Like McDonalds it satisfied my expectations, I got what I expected, and it was benign in every sense of the word. All of the characters were cutouts from films you’ve seen before and luckily they were played by decent to good actors so it wasn’t completely unwatchable.*
*Joe Posnanski-style aside: The exception to this was Jason Bateman who completely stole the show as a sleazy PR executive (is there any other kind?). He is hilarious as big shot turned informant almost winking at the camera but still in character if that makes any sense.
The grizzled old-school reporter, the slick young politician, the young, sassy new reporter, the Machiavellian older politician, and the tough as nails editor at the newspaper all make appearances during the film and if you don’t care about the ages, I truly believe all of the cast could have swapped places and given us the same movie. Russell Crowe as editor instead of grizzled reporter, why not? Helen Miren as the Machiavellian congressmen works for me. The only person that may be hard to interchange is Rachel McAdams who demonstrated no range whatsoever and lowered her stock in the every changing Hollywood landscape. Along with the cardboard characters, the plot was quite formulaic, including the “twist” at the end, which had the amazing ability to make the ending even more boring than sticking with the intricate mcguffin that dominated the majority of the film.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the film, the most tired of the tired clichés presented was the relationship between Crowe’s character and what he represented, the old newspaper media, and Rachel McAdams character, the new blog-style reporter. You probably know the words to this old nugget, so sing along:
Old Guy: Blogs? hmmph! That’s not real reporting, that’s gossip.
New Girl: No, it’s not I’m a real reporter, damn it!
Old Guy: Oh yeah, then get this story.
New Girl: I, I…, I CAN’T without you, grizzled yet kind hearted old dude. Teach me your ways that I may be like you and save the newspaper business from evil bloggers like myself.
Old Guy: sure kid. And let this be a reminder to you, technology sucks. Only ink stained dinosaurs like me count.
New Girl: You’re hot…
And so on. Hasn’t this been played out enough? Haven’t we figured out yet that newspapers as we know them are fading and that online news can actually be worthwhile? Also, isn’t the “dedicated to the story and nothing else” reporter kind of finished too? This characterization pops up all the time, yet the reality is that this character rarely appears in real life. Most reporters, the most dedicated among them, seem relatively well adjusted, married, you know, normal. Why must we be fed this idea that pursuing the truth requires suffering and loneliness? It just doesn’t hold up. Do yourself a favor, rent “State of Play,” skip to the Jason Bateman scenes and call it a night, you’ll get a chuckle and not waste 2+ hours with an otherwise boring film.