State Of Play
Often there are moments in film that make us wonder or beam with pride but perhaps the most worrying factor when considers this in State of Play is that it’s closing scene elicits such a response whilst simultaneously forcing us to wonder if such instances will seem nothing more than archaic within the next decade; an article exposing old fashioned corruption with the Washington political sect goes from computer screen to printers before our eyes, lacking only the additional newsboy screaming “extra!”
Such feelings pervade the entire piece and they should, the piece is even written in such a way that it seems to be highlighting the strengths of the conventional press core, lacking only a Century 21 style photo opportunity as if these are the only people to trust. Reeking of sentiment whilst posing as knowledgeable cynicism, the film comes off as a love letter to an industry that has yet to be put out to greener pastures.
That’s not to say the overall story lacks potential, the original BBC miniseries upon which it was based rife with material with which to use and Kevin MacDonald (Last King of Scotland) at the helm but with three screenwriters adapting it to film, it’s perhaps a case of “too many cooks” considering the end result lacks any sign of the original’s self-assured nature and deep yet engrossing craftsmanship.
Cal McAffrey (Russel Crowe) plays the bad cop, obvious Irish descendant and foil to Rachel McAdam’s blogger Della Frye, a girl with your grandmother’s name, an inferiority complex to match and iPhone. McAdam’s fights to break free of the confines of the script whilst Crowe seems non-committal even in his disregard for his younger counterpart, chastising online resources one moment and without a trace of irony, using them the next.
The clash of new and old media is supposedly driven by the Washington Globe’s acquisition by a large news conglomerate who’ve installed an icy but impotent new editor (Helen Mirren) without any real explanation.
A seeming subplot involving Cal’s former girlfriend Anne Collins (Robin Wright-Penn) and her ability to cope with the infidelity of her congressman husband (Ben Affleck) becomes the main drive of the story along with some supposedly unrelated murders and congressional investigations.
Every tool given to the writers seem to lost in this muddied production which never develops upon the characters nor the themes that are so painfully evident that it feels as if the wires will come loose. Mirren never appears to more than hover and state the obvious and Affleck seem so brittle, they disappear with every touch, but perhaps the most poignant example of such a supreme lack of development comes in the shape of Wright-Penn, who suffers from Jennifer Connolly syndrome, vacant expression and porcelain skin included.
Sadly, such issues are only highlighted when one considers the beautiful sense of urgency and atmosphere created, when nothing else comes together. Inevitably this becomes more of a potential explanation for the decline of the mainstream press core rather than a beautiful swan song.