Hat-tip: Graham Finch
Wow, somebody actually requested I talk about this. I honestly didn't think anybody was reading these things. Well, here we go...
The reaction most people seem to be having to this seems to be "blatant Oscar bait, BUT...Clint Eastwood". And I find it hard to disagree. A film covering the life from childhood to death of a powerful, idealistic man drawn slowly into corruption, played by a talented, versatile young actor (ok, Leonardo DeCaprio isn't really young anymore, but with that boyish face of his, it's hard to tell), artificially aged with heavy makeup, it's hard not to think "this is trying really hard to be Citizen Kane". But of course, it's completely different: here they made an actual biopic rather than fictionalizing a real life person.
I kid, of course. This is Clint Eastwood after all, so it will almost certainly be good, even if it's not terribly groundbreaking from the looks of it. The old "idealist rises to power yet falls into corruption" story is one of the most popular topics for dramas, especially Oscar contenders, and frankly I think we've made too many of them already. I tend to think the Academy, and high-minded film scholars in general, perhaps place too little value on optimistic themes in storytelling. We've made a lot of Citizen Kane's, but not a lot of Mr. Smith goes to Washington's. Life is grim enough already, we don't need movies to constantly remind us of it. We could use more films with that kind've hopeful, pick-me-up spirit we used to get from Frank Capra oh so long ago.
As an aside, I find it amusing they had to name this after the title character's given name. I imagine they didn't want anyone thinking this film was about vacuum cleaners.