The Post is a Steven Spielberg crowd pleaser: a better-then-average movie starring Meryl Streep as Kathryn Graham and and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee. It offers great performances, lots of melodramatic moments and a tacked on ending that draws applause.
Purportedly, it is the story of the Pentagon Papers. But the film vacillates: it can't decide whether it is The Kathryn Graham story or a Pentagon Papers Manifesto. All The President’s Men, the movie it is most compared to, is a much more focused and informative achievement.
I also take umbrage at Spielberg’s depiction of Kathryn Graham. He portrays her as a '50s housewife type, shy and bumbling, daunted by a world of men who had more interest in hosting parties than in running her newspaper. All of which may have been true in 1963, when her husband committed suicide and ownership of the Washington Post was thrust upon her. But by 1973, the time of the Pentagon Papers, she was a seasoned newspaper woman and stalwart owner of the Post according to her Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography, Personal History, in which she chronicles each step of that remarkable journey.
That said, the publication of the Pentagon Papers represented a significant and perilous decision. I am simply saying (unlike the movie), that it did not transform her. She was well prepared to make that momentous decision. Her transformation had occurred years earlier.
It’s the men, of course, who do all the work in The Post. Streep as Graham has one monumental decision to make, and she is loathe to leave her party to do it. I grow weary of strong women being portrayed during their weakest moment and, in this case, not even an accurate moment.
The Post is a movie for our times—history yes, but ever so current. Spielberg attracts a big budget and bigger stars, and they do their very best for him. It is a movie worth seeing, although I don't think it will take home many awards. I am happy that it is at the top of box office rewards, if that means that lots of people are seeing it and enjoying a refresher course on our First Amendment and how it works in real life—important in this age of "Fake News." And Bob Odenkirk, portraying the other Ben, an investigative reporter, should not be overlooked at Oscar time.
Ms. Streep can take a lump of clay and, with her talents, create David. She does that here. I come to praise Streep, not to bury her. She is magnificent as always. Tom Hanks is his loveable self in his over-the- top portrayal of an over-the-top personality.
See The Post.