While everyone else last night was watching “The Ten Commandments” with Carleton Heston and Yul Brynner (a show with everything and Yul Brynner, which just makes me start humming “One Night in Bangkok” by Murray Head), I was watching “Lincoln” with Daniel Day-Lewis.
I was surprised to find I didn’t like it. I, the political science major who spends her free time reading biographies of people like Ben Franklin and, yes, Abraham Lincoln, didn’t like Steven Speilberg’s alleged masterpiece.
Well, it didn’t have Yul Brynner (thanks Murray Head). It did have Daniel Day-Lewis, who truly inhabits any character he plays. He was amazing. But the rest of the movie? Meh.
“Lincoln” was dark (literally — I mean, I know Lincoln worked by candlelight, but Spielberg’s cinematographer had to, too?) and extremely hard to follow. I felt like I should have reviewed a synopsis beforehand to remind me which states were in and out of the Union, how many representatives the United States had at the time, how many sons Lincoln had and who the heck Thaddeus Stevens was. I’m also wondering how today’s Republicans were once that Grand Old Party.
Am I making this movie sound like a substitute history teacher’s syllabus?
Make no mistake, I appreciate art that make me think a little more than “Jackass: The Movie” but the level of knowledge required to understand “Lincoln” was beyond me. I doubt the average American understands the nuances of 19th century amendment ratification.
And what about Mary Lincoln? Poor Sally Field. She had to play a most unlikable character since, well, Yul Brynner. If that’s how self-involved Lincoln’s wife was, the president’s death may not have been as untimely as I had been led to believe. She was hard to watch and wholly unpitiable.
Perhaps Ben Affleck’s “Argo” was too accessible, its villains too cartoonish and its story a little too slick, but I enjoyed it a great deal more than “Lincoln.” I’m glad the Academy did, too.