‘Lions for Lambs’ is polemics for pontificators

Carly at the Movies column by Carl Larsen

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk!
That’s all that Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, and Andrew Garfield do for two-thirds of “Lions for Lambs,” now playing at the downtown Dixie in Staunton. And if you’re still feeling guilty about skipping that last exam in Political Science 101, sit through this mind-numbing blabfest and live the rest of your life guilt-free.

Tom plays a Proto-Bushie Senator who talks and talks and talks at Meryl, a hotsy-totsy reporter. Robert plays a college prof who talks and talks and talks at student Andrew Garfield. The topic is the current so-called war against terrorism, and like the war itself, nothing ever gets settled.

The film, directed by Redford and written by Matthew Michael Carnahan (who also wrote this year’s “The Kingdom”), hops back and forth between the above-mentioned chats and a third setting, a murky battle scene in Afghanistan where a couple of Redford’s ex-students engage in modern warfare. The good thing about the battle is that it reaches a conclusion. Not so for the other two-thirds of the movie.

Lively political debate can be fun and exhilarating but, like we’ve already realized from kinda-watching televised Candidate Debate after televised Candidate Debate, too much is way too much. Watching “Lions for Lambs,” I listened and listened, and about a half hour into it I slipped into a zone, then a coma, then finally the Thought Support Machinery in my head turned off.

I only woke up when they occasionally switched back to the battle scene. Damn, them guns is loud.

Before you follow me into a pointless polemic, perpetrated by peerless pontificators, let us (Pun Alert!) change horses in the middle of the screen and talk about “Dan in Real Life,” currently playing at the Regal Staunton Mall Cinema.

Steve Carell, last seen in these parts filming the ill-fated “Evan Almighty,” has become America’s designated Nice Guy. And he’s very nice (and polite) in “Dan in Real Life.” It’s a pleasant and satisfying film for adults. At this time of the year, who could ask for anything more?

Steve plays a newspaper columnist who falls in love with his brother’s girlfriend, Juliette Binoche. (Happens all the time to us good-lookin’ newspaper columnists.) And while the usual cookie-cutter embarrassing situations play out, there are genuinely humorous scenes and, thank the great and merciful Lord, his family is NOT full of quaint and quirky characters. Diane Wiest and John Mahoney are the mom and pop of a plain old family full of amiable people who know how to celebrate a holiday.

They cook, they chat, they play parlor games, and in the meantime this little romantic triangle runs its course all around them.

I enjoyed this movie a lot (and not just because a pretty gal makes goo-goo eyes at a newspaper guy) that was written and directed by Peter Hedges. He also did the screenplay for 2002’s charming Hugh Grant film, “About a Boy,” plus Johnny Depp’s best film, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” back in 1993.

The acting is excellent; much is said without dialogue. It was a welcome relief from “Lions for Lambs.”


Carl Larsen is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press. Look for his At the Movies column on Mondays.

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