To call Vice stylistic would be a gross understatement. There's a CGI heart beating to the match cut of a toy rooster, complete Shakespearean dialogue for one scene just for the lolz, and a moment where the credits starts rolling midway through the movie just to prove a point.
Heck, the very beginning of this bio film instills upon you via text that the real life figure of Dick Cheney is a hard and secretive figure to uncover, hence the filmmakers proclaimed "we did our fuckin' best". I don't think I've ever seen a movie opening with the director telling me that he did his fuckin' best. Whilst you may think I just spoilt some of the film's most outlandish moments for you, there are so many to count that I think you will be thoroughly stimulated regardless. There is a lot to digest here.
Vice is written and directed by Adam McKay, the man who made his start at Saturday Night Live and directed beloved comedy films like Anchorman. This guy's second serious take on modern American times is everything you'd hope it to be but it is definitely indulgent. Unapologetically so. Needless to say, if you liked McKay's first dramatic offering with the mockumentary style of The Big Short - this is that on steroids. Epic, blue-magic level steroids.
Everyone in the cast gave incredible performances of their real life portrayals. And what a cast it was. Classic Christian Bale decided to change his body again for an acting role gaining around 18 kilos to fit the beer belly statute of former US Vice President Dick Cheney. He nails the mannerisms of the meglomanic and controversal vice president beautifully and has a reservedness in his expression that perfectly juxtaposes how ruthless he was in politics. Sam Rockwell sounds just like the Texan 43rd president of the United states: George W. Bush. Plus he looks just like him! Whoever did the makeup for Rockwell should definitely feel proud for the uncanny resemble Rockwell has made to the man that heard from God to invade the Middle-east.
Steve Carell was exceptionally well cast as the vocal sleezeball that is Donald Rumsfeld. Carell in his outspoken nature played a great douche in Battle of the Sexes and he plays a great douche here inspiring Cheney to become the savage that he is. However these titans kinda overshadow Amy Adam’s role as Dick Cheney’s wife: Lynne Cheney. Adams is a phenomenal actress and does her supportive Lady Macbeth role well for the film. The script just doesn’t give her that much to work with other than her beautiful opening which made everything else in her arc leave a bit more to be desired.
The screenplay has a big arsenal of weapons to hurl at you and some of them will make you feel either very mad or very entertained. As a storyline however, it’s a bit all over the place. Some chapters of this story does not ebb and flow very well where you can definitely feel a big hefty turn of the page in the screenplay. There were also the classic case of some parts dragging whilst other parts not being seen long enough. I really wanted to see more of the camaraderie between Bush and Cheney like the trailer marketed and less about Cheney’s love to his daughters which comes and goes like the wind with just not the right amount of establishment to make it punch.
Notable fictional power couples on the screen like Frank and Claire Underwood from House of Cards may be monsters but their amazing chemistry with each other makes us the audience all the more invested in them. Here you have a real-life couple of political mavericks that maybe aren’t as cold-hearted as the Underwoods but don’t possess that much spark between them other than their constant declarations of how much they love each other and how grateful they are to have each other in their lives.
It seems McKay was a comedy bit writer first and a dramatic storyteller second in the pacing of this film. You may argue that it would be fairly tricky to make this ’true story’ work while still being truthful, but if you plan to do a story this ambitious, you might as well have the shoes to fill it. The overall narration of the film also didn’t help with all the random B-roll of zeitgeist media of its time. It worked so well in The Big Short but here in such a grounded story, it’s just trying to be too relevant.
The ambition of this film does make Vice one of the most refreshing and unique film of the years. Amidst all its imperfections, the comedy of this film has a good hit rate showing the strengths of Mckay’s comedy skit writing background. There are some amazing bits here and there that are as laugh-out-loud funny as they are thought provoking. For the goal of any story, a great emotional impact on the viewer would be a good sign. Vice does do that in spades from the comedy to the drama despite a long-feeling 132 minute runtime.
McKay showcased some of the most boldest forms of storytelling you’ll see in 2018. Regardless of how many hits and misses there are, it’s the hits that will really make you feel like you are watching a biographical tale of political satire. A oh-so-rough diamond, but a gem nonetheless.