"Thus open the gates of paradise."

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The Cradle Will Rock

06 Apr 2002

Not a bad effort, but as usual, I wish the film had a little more focus. It's about the production of a play "The Cradle Will Rock", financed by the US government's Federal Theatre program in the early 1930's. True story. It's also the story about the anti-communist hysteria that ended the program. And a couple of other subplots to bulk it the film. While watchable, I thought it long. I saw it with my Mother who was engrossed and thought it moved very quickly, so your mileage may vary.

The look of the film was spot on: 1930's New York. As if I'd know, as if I'd been alive then. But it looks about right. In fact, you could imagine that just a couple of blocks away, Woody Allen was making "Sweet and Lowdown". If I had to put my finger on just one distracting thing, it would have to be that the characters are never really developed. The most insight you get is to Bill Murray's character, which is peculiar because he's not the main thrust of the action of the movie, but his character does a good job of encapsulating the soul of the film -- the collision of politics and art, love and betrayal. Everything really interesting happens to him. But he's not the star because this is an ensemble piece, and this is where I think it might have worked better if the story had focused on him rather than the mounting of the play.

Special notice should be given to Cherry Jones who plays Hallie Flanagan, the civil servant who heads up the Federal Theatre program. She is perk and wit personified. I'm not sure what draws me to her performance, perhaps the strength of her character to act consistently on her beliefs. A number of the other characters in the film do this too, but she does it without putting on a big show over it. She just does it, and I find that really appealing.

Do go see it, if only for the treat of seeing both John and Joan Cusack work in the same film (though you don't have any scenes together.)

Related Sites

Cradle Will Rock (Official site)
Cradle Will Rock (IMDB)