Trumbo Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Michael Stuhlbarg. Directed by Jay Roach. Rated R. Now playing.
Dalton Trumbo was a brilliant writer who sacrificed his career and his family life to stand up for what he believed in, but the movie about him features neither brilliant writing nor daring social commentary. Trumbo is, however, a fitfully entertaining biopic, featuring a cast of recognizable faces playing other recognizable faces, which is alternately distracting and illuminating. Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston is solid as Trumbo, who in the 1950s was blacklisted in Hollywood for being a member of the Communist party. The movie focuses solely on Trumbo’s blacklist period, throwing in some standard biopic beats (he drinks too much, he neglects his family) along the way. Director Jay Roach sometimes inserts his actors playing real Hollywood figures (Edward G. Robinson, John Wayne, Kirk Douglas) into actual movie and news footage, which ends up highlighting the artificiality of the story rather than making it feel more genuine. Like Roach’s political HBO movies (Recount, Game Change), Trumbo delivers an amusing pastiche that never quite captures the real thing.