Film Reviews

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK

By • Oct 14th, 2005 •

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Warner Independent Pictures, 2929 Entertainment, Participant Prods. in association with Davis Films, Redbus Pictures and Tohokushinsha present a Section 8 production
MPAA rating PG / Running time: 90 minutes

Murrow is an insufferable sourpuss, everything is life-and-death over-dramatized, and who cares about Communists now?

This film has a narrow elite focus. There were no advance screenings in Las Vegas. After seeing GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK I know why. News runs 24 hours a day. The internet and bloggers have made news readers and newspapers irrelevant. I don’t wait to hear if it’s safe to go to sleep at night from Peter Jennings. However, I do watch ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart. The era of Dan “Courage” Rather is over. No one thinks about Edward R. Murrow and his legacy. Yes, the current state of reporting news makes the Elite Guardians, like George Clooney and his self-important friends, furious. Clooney would like us to remember the good old days when celebrities were treated with respect, news was vetted, and newscasters were relevant. To this end he has unearthed Edward R. Murrow’s famous attack on crazy Commie hunter Senator Joseph McCarthy. Marxism, Darwinism, McCarthyism.

It’s not every man who gets an “ism” named after him.

Way back long ago a World War ll star journalist became the conscience of America. GOOD NIGHT starts off with Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) pontificating at an award ceremony honoring him. This is not a good way to start a film with the main character standing up and reading a speech. Murrow is a sour, stiff, insufferable bore. What the Hell is he so grave about? Is the sky falling?

Murrow has taken it upon himself to expose, on his CBS news shows, the Commie witch hunt begun by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and his Congressional Committee. Clearly, McCarthy had wide public support. He thought there was a Communist threat. Americans wanted to believe Commies were infiltrating their way of life. They wanted names. They wanted facts.

With an ever-present cigarette, Murrow is an unapproachable grump. Why him? How in the world did he ever make it up the corporate ladder without a lick of charm? Why did the American public embrace Murrow? Clooney might know, but he doesn’t show it.

What was Murrow really like? Here’s a big clue. His catchphrase was “Good Night, and Good Luck.” The poor man, carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, was cautioning Americans to watch out! Bad things happen. Good Luck getting through them.
Clooney and his pals must sit around thinking they are artists. Sure, they do OCEANS 11 & 12, but that is only to have juice to do projects with social impact. Clooney’s complaints about the media are legendary. (If you don’t want to get photographed having sex outside, why not get serviced 100 feet away in your house?) This is a self-conscious exercise in harsh lighting, black backdrops, and sinister whispers about Communists!

My God, there isn’t an apartment building in all of Moscow that doesn’t reek of fresh urine on the stairs. The drastic lighting and stark cinematography only draws attention to the director, which, of course, is the point. The writing, when we are not watching TV or hearing historical speeches, is minor and without any depth.

The entire film takes place in a conference room. Everybody sits and talks. For excitement, Murrow takes a phone call.

Under “I hate being read to in movies” is the sub-category “I hate watching TV in a movie.” In GOOD LUCK, Murrow and his staff watch McCarthy on TV. He’s a phantom to us. What was he like as a person? Did he really believe?

It is my understanding that Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, writers of the Inquisition manual ‘The Malleus Maleficarum,’ were respected and devout Dominican priests. They thought they were doing good – eliminating witches who were causing havoc around Europe!

You might now say, “What does GOOD NIGHT have to do with The Inquisition?” At least I know the context and framework for the witch hunts. Clooney, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Grant Heslov, includes a scene showing Murrow interviewing Liberace on his wildly popular TV interview show, “Person to Person.” I lost respect for the clueless Murrow when he asked Liberace when was he going to settle down and marry. So Murrow was not opposed to perpetuating PR myths; or, did the Conscience of America not hear the rumors about Liberace?

The cast is well-chosen for their ability to look fat and very grave. The CBS workplace was a morgue of misery. Whoever had the most dour face must have had CBS boss William S. (Frank Langella) Paley’s good cheer.

The film ends with a TV newsreel of President Eisenhower pounding home American values. You lost me Mr. Clooney.

The harsh black-and-white cinematography, extreme close-ups, and distracting men-in-front-of-black-backgrounds gives the film a severe, cold look that distances us from the message. It might be a nice showcase for a director, but it blocks us from being subtly influenced by the director. The cinematography becomes the story. And what was up with the black lady (Dianne Reeves) singing jazz? Was it cheaper than a soundtrack?


Cast:
Edward R. Murrow: David Strathairn
Fred Friendly: George Clooney
Joe Wershba: Robert Downey Jr.
Shirley Wershba: Patricia Clarkson
William S. Paley: Frank Langella
Sig Mickelson: Jeff Daniels
Don Hollenbeck: Ray Wise
Jessie Zousmer: Tate Donovan
Palmer Williams: Tom McCarthy
Eddie Scott: Matt Ross
John Aaron: Reed Diamond
Charlie Mack: Robert John Burke
Don Hewitt: Grant Heslov.

Credits:
Director: George Clooney
Screenwriters: George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Producer: Grant Heslov
Executive producers: Steven Soderbergh, Ben Cosgrove, Jennifer Fox, Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban, Marc Butan, Jeff Skoll
Director of photography: Robert Elswit
Production designer: Jim Bissell
Editor: Stephen Mirrione

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