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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

'The' Special Relationship?

    HBO's newest movie is called The Special Relationship, and revolves around Bill Clinton's second term as president of the United States, and Tony Blair's first term as prime minister or Britain.  I'm not sure why they seemingly had a special relationship, even after viewing the movie.  Their relationship didn't seem particularly more interesting or complicated than plenty of other world leaders'.  But it wasn't a bad movie.

     The beginning flipped quickly past Blair taking advice from the Clinton team on how to win, then concentrated on three meaty segments of their time: the Lewinsky scandal, Kosovo, and the 2000 U.S. presidential election.  Each lasted a certain number of minutes, but the after effects of the main event being focused on were never discussed.  As such, it seemed more a series of vignettes than a cohesive film.  It also was far from balanced, painting Blair as the humble, heroic figure and Clinton as a lying, scheming, manipulator.  Both characterizations are rooted in some truth that happened, but again, this movie did not seem to want to explore complexities.

     The best part of the film was the acting.  Michael Sheen took a third go round as Tony Blair, having previously portrayed him in The Deal and The Queen.  At this point, he's practically become more recognizable to Americans as Blair than Blair himself, and so it's hard to judge his performance as anything but thoroughly realistic.  Helen McCrory was a delight as his wife, Cherie, whom she also played in The Queen, and so the chemistry was already set.  Dennis Quaid came as close to Clinton as any non-comedian I've ever seen.  The only weak link was Hope Davis, usually a wonderful actress, playing Hillary a little softer and weaker than expected.  However, as the Hillary scenes were mostly private moments, it's hard to say it she was being accurate or not.

     I wouldn't discourage anyone from watching the film, but I wouldn't necessarily encourage it either, unless you have an interest in the event covered, as I do.  Sheen made Blair really grow and come into his own over the course of the hour and a half, but other than that, there's not much that stands out.  Not exactly what I've come to expect from HBO, but feel free to make your own judgments.

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