April 17, 2011


Atlas Winced (Megan McArdle, Apr 15 2011,, The Atlantic)

I feel bad being this mean about the movie. Mean reviews are cheap currency for a reviewer; they're easy and fun to write, while it's hard to find interesting and original ways to say "I liked it". But in this case, it's more than justified. Acting an Ayn Rand movie well would require extraordinary control and nuance; the actors either don't get it, or don't have the skill to convey it. Filming it well would require imagination to capture the combination of WPA mural and noir that forms the backdrop for her novels; the director and the art director either lacked the imagination, or the budget. Writing it well would require deft judgement as to how to translate Rand's rather preachy dialogue into something plausible and compelling. The writers either . . . well, here's a sample.

"Robert McNamara?"
"I'm Robert McNamara. What are you selling, pal?"
"Nothing. I'm simply offering a society that cultivates individual achievement. I know where such a place exists."

At the sound of this, my husband's head popped up. "He really said that?" he asked incredulously. And in a tone of even greater wonder "And someone else wrote it??" It is sort of breathtaking to contemplate the chain of events that had to occur for those words to end up blaring improbably from my laptop speakers.

Believe it or not, this is far from the worst dialogue in the movie--the farewell of Ellis Wyatt is much, much worse, and also, manages to step on one of the best lines in the book. Did I say "step"? The line was flung down and danced upon.

The worst part is that the movie is a bad caricature of what people think that libertarians believe. The genius of capitalism is nowhere to be found--in this movie, "business" mostly consists of shuffling papers around a desk, telling your fellow capitalists how great they are, and instantly promising to deliver metal for a railroad bridge without probing trivial matters like how much metal will be required, when and where the bridge will be built, and how much the customer might be willing to pay. This makes the capitalists who go on strike seem very little different from the "looters" in Washington who they are supposed to be fighting: they're all a bunch of pompous windbags delivering prim little lectures to each other.


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Posted by at April 17, 2011 6:28 AM

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