Netflix & Chill #64: Vice

Watched On: Hulu
Released: 2018
Directed By: Adam McKay
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Tyler Perry, Alison Pill, Lily Rabe, Jesse Plemmons
Rotten Tomatoes: 66%
Pick: Mine

Vice is probably the most fundamentally honest movie I've seen in years. And there's the rub of it all: it seems like Director Adam McKay is doing what you'd expect from a big budget Hollywood biopic of a Republican Vice President. You think he's trying to take Vice President Cheney down and there are the usual shots you'd expect: Halliburton, the 2000 election, Iraq, but none of it lands effectively- and maybe that's the point. Cheney is an enigma. He's powerful. You, a mere mortal of a film director aren't going to be able to take him down.

The story opens with Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) working hard as an electrical linesman in Casper,WY back in the early 60s. His wife, Lynn (Amy Adams) got him a scholarship to Yale, but he partied too hard and got kicked out. When he gets pulled over for drunk driving, Lynn issues him an ultimatum to get his shit together because if not, she'll be gone baby gone no surprise, it works. Cheney cleans up and the movie skips ahead to 1969, where he finds work as a White House intern during the Nixon Administration and meets Donald Rumsfeld. (Steve Carell) While in the White House, the duo overhears Kissinger and Nixon discussing the secret bombing of Cambodia, which illuminates the potential power of the executive to Cheney-- though Rumsfeld's abrasive attitude sees the duo distanced from Nixon, post-Watergate that actually proves to be helpful as Cheney becomes Chief of Staff and Rumsfeld becomes Secretary of Defense in the Ford Administration.

When Ford is voted out of office, Cheney runs for the Congressional seat in Wyoming-- he suffers his first heart attack in the middle of uncharismatic campaign speech and Lynne campaigns on his behalf, winning him a seat in the House. During the Reagan Administration, he supports policies favoring the fossil fuel industry, abolishing the Fairness Doctrine (which Wikipedia ties to the rise of Fox News, talk radio and increased party polarization in the United States.) Cheney serves as Secretary of Defense for Bush the Elder during the first Gulf War and he and Lynne come to terms with their daughter Mary coming out as a lesbian. He toys with the idea of running for President, but decides to spare Mary the media scrutiny.

The credits start to roll in the middle of the film, as a false epilogue claims that Cheney retires from public life to become CEO of Haliburton while Lynne raises golden retrievers and writes books and praises him for putting his daughter ahead of ambitions-- then, the credits end and the film continues

But of course, the story doesn't end there. Cheney is asked to be George W Bush's running mate and he accepts- but uses the opportunity to amass unprecedented power and control for himself to promote his beliefs in the theory of the unitary executive. The film goes through his time in the Vice Presidency: September 11th,  Afghanistan, Iraq, the Valerie Plame thing, the time he shot a guy and persistent heart attacks to boot. There's also increasing tension between his two daughters over the issue of same sex marriage.

By 2012, Cheney's heart is ready to give out entirely and his saying his final goodbyes when he manages to get a healthy heart and is saved. A few months later, he finally gives his daughter the go ahead to say she's opposed to same-sex marriage when she runs for a Senate seat in Wyoming, which leads to a rift between the two sisters. She later wins her father's old Congressional seat. At the end of the movie Cheney breaks the fourth wall to deliver a monologue to the audience stating that he has no regrets about anything he has done.

Overall: I have to give Adam McKay a ton of credit for this movie. He more than earned his Best Director Academy Award nomination with this one- it's a perfect political movie for our polarized times, because you can see whatever you want to see in it. I expect, but don't know that he wanted this to be a hit piece on the Heart of the Darkness that was Cheney's Vice Presidency- and if you're of the Liberal/Prog bent you'll see just the monster you want to see. If you're more of a 'Red State' American, you'll see a decent man and a patriot doing what has to be done to defend the country he loves. If you're somewere in the middle like me, you'll see a bit of both. 

It's fundamentally honest and Cheney's monologue at the end of the movie was the brilliant capstone to a brilliant film that underlines the uncomfortably truth about all of this: we did it to ourselves and if we really think about it, deep down, we might be more okay with it than we think. And if that's not the most disturbing thing about the whole movie, I don't know what is. My Grade: **** out of ****


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