VICE – Review by Susan Granger

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Idiosyncratic writer/director Adam McKay has crafted a devastating portrait of Dick Chaney, opening with TV footage of the then-Vice President’s autocratic assumption of White House power as Manhattan’s Twin Towers burned on 9/11.

What’s most remarkable is how a 40-lb. weight gain and make-up/prosthetics transform shape-shifting Christian Bale into venomous Chaney, enabling him to deliver an immersive, powerhouse performance.

Propelled by his shrewd wife Lynne (Amy Adams), the narrative traces Chaney’s bureaucratic rise during the Nixon administration from scheming aide to conservative Republican Congressman Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) to most trusted confidante of George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell).

Plus there’s Cheney’s unshakable love and support for his openly lesbian daughter Mary (Alison Pill), a same-sex marriage advocate.

Note the memorable end-credits scene of a (fictional) focus group, epitomizing the widening American cultural divide that took root during the tenure of this sneering, shadowy man with an uncanny ability, as the narrator (Jesse Plemons) notes, “to make wild and extreme ideas sound reasonable.”

“Dick Chaney was the safe-cracker, the professional you brought in who knew all the ins and outs of our government. He was the ultimate gamesman,” McKay told the Hollywood Reporter. “With Donald Trump the front door to the White House is wide open. There’s deer and dogs and hyenas running around. And this guy is like an orangutan just throwing shit around. But Cheney was the grandmaster who finished the deal.”

Unfortunately, this political black comedy’s zany tone and fragmentary structure falters, quickly leading to tedium. Adam McKay, former SNL writer-turned-filmmaker, overdoes the absurdist element, like staging a Machiavellian/Shakespearean soliloquy in the Chaney bedroom.

But 2019 could be the year that versatile Christian Bale, who was previously nominated for “The Fighter,” “American Hustle” and “The Big Short,” finally wins an Oscar. Kudos also to makeup designer Greg Cannom (Oscar-winner for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), who used every trick in the book – except digital touch-ups.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Vice” is a searing, surreal 6, emerging as an incendiary, yet insubstantial satire

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.