We just endured the earnest-but-meh new movie, The Report (2019), written and directed by Scott Z. Burns with the backing of producer Steven Soderbergh. The film’s noble mission is to recount yet another norm broken in our once-shining nation: the Geneva Convention. A ‘backstage drama’ (an underground “scif” in CIA’s Langley headquarters serves as the setting), The Report depicts a dogged guy researching demoralizing and amoral official behavior; he then writes an overlong report no one wants to read — one that sucks the air from the urgent issue at hand.
Wait, wait … is The Report the Robert Mueller biopic?
No. Only watching Robert Mueller testify before Congress would be more unscintillating than this movie. The Report concerns Dan Jones (Adam Driver, above), a Senate staffer with a singular passion to investigate the Detention and Interrogation Program, the CIA’s secret torture program created in the aftermath of 9/11. Much screen time is devoted to Mr. Driver’s character’s obstacles in getting his report disseminated.
In the movie, Dan Jones has no family or friends, no girlfriend (the script dispels that possibility with a single line of dialogue). He doesn’t live anywhere, he doesn’t go to Starbucks (he wakes up with a full Starbucks cup in his hand), or to the laundromat. (His salary, he says, is $100k, so his maid does his laundry.) He just ricochets between a car, a garage (a clear visual quote from All The President’s Men, the Beltway-genre movie our film attempts, but fails, to advance). He roars (more like snivels) in his man-cave at Langley and in edgy meetings with his frosty boss, Diane Feinstein (her attempted cloning is by Annette Bening). Why is this universe interesting?
It seems to be a contemporary actor’s dream to embody the likes of pill-popping Judy Garland in Judy, bilious Roger Ailes in Bombshell, and, now, of all things, stodgy Senator Diane Feinstein. I, for one, have had enough of these dress-up dramas; I prefer original characters. I suspect that the current onslaught of docudrama movies may reflect the lack of interest, or ability, of male screenwriters to write original characters for women. Enough! Wasn’t watching Diane Feinstein, in action, boring enough in real time?
The Report is distributed by Amazon Studios, in a deal cut at Sundance Film Festival for $14 million dollars, an investment Amazon clearly wishes to recoup. That sum alone could have saved three medium-sized American dance companies that in the last decade went under, each with puny annual budgets of circa five million dollars. Who really needs this movie? How on earth do these things get made when we cannot manage as a society to keep dance companies alive, and a few dozen professional dancers employed?
Shorn of government funding and flopping in a market where people prefer to stay home to watch Amazon’s streaming fodder, dance is left begging at the door of the wealthy — a group that by the way includes the actors in these movies. Disappeared from its Boise Idaho base is Trey McIntyre Project, which threw in the towel in 2014 with an annual budget of less than 2 million dollars. McIntyre, a founder/choreographer, then called running a dance company “a rat race.” That closure was quickly followed, in 2015, by the termination of Cedar Lake Dance. We’re hearing rumors that Chicago’s noble Hubbard Street Dance, with roots dating back 40 years, is teetering at the edge, with its annual budget of $7 million.
Rather than complain how profligate the film world and how impoverished is dance, may I propose a solution? What about a docudrama recounting this American tragedy: the protracted, but unheralded, death of American dance? In my unofficial role as a casting director, I’ll give a shout-out to Adam Driver to play Martha Graham in her prime. He’s got the look. He’s a sizzling hot name — and gender be damned!
Since casting directors have their own “branch” at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — choreographers don’t — and the new AMPAS prez is a casting director, I am waiting to have the Academy sing my praises for this casting coup. See you on the red carpet!