What is – or should be – the role of movies? To entertain and distract us from our mundane lives? To inspire us? To make a positive impact on society? Cinema, like art, is not science, and thus we may never be able to find a proper consensus on what its role should be. I personally believe that our social reality should be reflected in the entertainment we consume. Which is why, at the time of post-truth, fake news, media mistrust and general political crisis, both in the United States and Europe, The Post is the movie we needed all along.
Based on the 1971 Pentagon Papers leak, which revealed decades long government secrets about the Vietnam War, and which was first published in the New York Times and later in several other papers, including the Washington Post, the first newspaper led by a woman publisher, Kay Graham, The Post portrays the difficulties faced by Graham and editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee in what became a true battle between freedom of the press and Government so-called confidentiality.
The movie revolves around a key notion: how far are you willing to go in order to do what is right, even if that means going to jail or lose your fortune. Is it easier to keep the American people oblivious to what is happening around them rather than risk your own life and freedom in order to expose the government? To what point is the government lying to us and risking our own lives in order to keep an image of international power? And most importantly, what is the purpose of journalism? To protect the government, even when lives are at stake, or to inform the public? It is easy to see why this movie had to be released now, and perhaps not in three years, as what happens in the movie resonates with what we are currently living. And who could have done this better than screen legend Steven Spielberg, who is able to capture both the atmosphere and complicated characters depicted in The Post while keeping the audience at the edge of their seats: much too often human lives are sacrificed in order to maintain certain politicians in power, the same politicians who were voted by the citizens. There must be someone willing to stop this brutal violation of human rights, and that should be the role of journalism, which has unfortunately become now in great part propaganda at the service of companies, the stock market and political parties.
But the Post is much more than that, as it also focusses on Kay Graham’s transformation from a socialite more interested in hosting the best dinner parties in Washington DC, into one of the most powerful publishers in the United States. Graham’s father, Eugene Meyer, had left the company in Graham husband’s hands and, after his suicide, Kay had to face the enormous challenge of being at the top of the newspaper, a role she had never imagined for herself. Her personal transformation, her obvious lack of confidence and her realization that her actions could damage her so-called politician friends but, most importantly, the existence of her newspaper, captivates the audience and conveys an obvious sense of female empowerment. Throughout the movie, she is pushed aside by her male colleagues who feel have the right to patronize her for her lack of experience and her gender, but as she herself realizes, The Washington Post is no longer her father’s company, it is hers. We are currently facing a new wave of women’s rights protests, from the Me Too movement to the public condemn of sexism and discrimination in the workplace. Last June it was revealed that only 6.4 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 were run by female CEOs, and it is likely that those who do suffer from the same sexist behavior Graham did almost 50 years ago (coincidentally, Graham became the first female Fortune 500 CEO in 1972).
We have to give credit where credit is due: The Post’s strengths come in great part from its incredible cast, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, who capture the complex emotion and the hesitation of their real-life characters. Both their performances are Oscar-worthy and if it wasn’t for the fierce competition and the fact that they are both multiple Oscar-winning actors (Streep had to wait 30 years to claim that well-deserved third Oscar for The Iron Lady), I could totally see them take the award this year. I know that I’m brutally biased considering my unconditional love for Meryl Streep, but after criticizing her recently Oscar-nominated performances in Florence Foster Jenkins and Into the Woods, I have to give credit where credit is due, and this is easily her best performance since The Iron Lady, as she is able to capture Graham’s complex emotions, her insecurities and her newly-found confidence.
Thus, I am surprised the movie has been overlooked by so many award voters and critics, receiving no Bafta and SAG nominations despite having been considered one of the frontrunners of this awards season (and getting six Golden Globe nominations). How can a movie that portrays such a present topic that affects us all, freedom of the press and sexism, can be put aside? This brings me to think, is the industry tired of Spielberg and Spielberg-esque movies? And, at the same time, was there anyone better to bring this story to life than one of Hollywood’s greatest living legends? I don’t think so. In any case, we can expect The Post to receive several Oscar nominations this year, as it has become, in my opinion, one of the most interesting and relevant pictures of this awards season.
Find below a small selection of low-quality pictures I took at the European premiere of The Post, held on January 10 at Odeon Leicester Square and attended by Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.