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Truth (2015)

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Quite why the story behind Dan Rather’s enforced retirement escaped me somewhat continues to elude me even after watching this. It’s about how his producer Mary Mapes went after Dubya’s dubious National Guard record, a few years after failing to get it done in 2000 when her mother died and Dubya wound up winning the Presidency by 537 votes from Al Gore. The authenticity of the documents and their source were queried by conservative websites so 60 Minutes – the gold standard for investigative television reporting  – was put in the spotlight. Casting Redford as Rather causes two things to happen:  you keep remembering he’s not him; and you recall him in All the President’s Men, the gold standard in films about political coverups. Blanchett is fine as Mapes, I don’t know her so it’s the performance that creates the frisson, not a bad impression. Her backstory is that her father beat her when she asked questions – so she does it for a living. Depth psychology.  Rather was forced to make an on-air apology and the entire team was subjected to an investigation. Mapes was fired, the team was told to resign. Rather subsequently took his case to an appeals court because he knew he had been sidelined to appease the Bush White House. He lost. (This took place after Bush was re-elected.) Mapes won the Peabody for her report on Abu Ghraib. She hasn’t worked in TV since. All of this happened when CBS’s parent company Viacom was looking for preferential regulatory treatment from the Republican Party. The truth of the story was lost in translation as it was intended when the critics started querying fonts and not the burden of proof. As to this in terms of narrative? Well, it probably doesn’t work for the same reason the original story didn’t work: they didn’t really work it out as well as they needed before committing it to celluloid. Written and directed by James Vanderbilt, who adapted Mapes’ book about the unholy episode.

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About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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