Governments that run nations are not unlike larger-than-life parents – the mother lands and father countries with their books of rules that keep the machine from falling into chaos. Trumbo is about a period of time in U.S. history when that so-called list of no-nos and smackdowns got a bigger workout than usual.
Directed by Jay Roach, Trumbo – the titular protagonist is the prolific, highly paid, Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) – is initially set in 1940s Hollywood. Trumbo, a staunch advocate of human rights and civil liberties, became a registered and vocal member of the Communist party – not an illegal act – in 1943, along with other U.S. citizens. By 1947, with the war over, Washington began to keep a close eye on these joiners and their seemingly more-than-paper ties to Russia, a country that had become America’s new, Cold-War enemy. Not surprisingly, the government’s witch hunt finally landed in Hollywood, a hotbed of suspicious, liberal sentiment.
Trumbo, a labor activist, is singled out, along with a group of his screenplay-writing and director colleagues, who either had formal links to or sympathy towards Communism. When the group – one character calls them “swimming pool Soviets” – is taken to the nation’s capital to participate in a hearing, and they refuse to answer questions, things go downhill.
Trumbo gets a prison sentence, and becomes part of the Hollywood 10, along with his cohorts (including Michael Stuhlbarg and Louis C.K.). Blacklisted, the group is unable to get paying work, and endure the rants of gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren), who considers them traitors, and political conservative John Wayne (David James Elliott), president of the influential Motion Picture Alliance.
Archetypal rule-bound Saturn carries the first half of the film – citizens, with no exception, are required to play by a democracy’s code, and get punished and ostracized if they don’t. However, after Trumbo’s release from jail and his reunion with his supportive wife (Diane Lane) and children (Elle Fanning, as his oldest daughter), the movie shifts into Uranian mode. Trumbo, in need of work that his blacklist-status denies, becomes anarchist and liberator – archetypes associated with Uranus – and finds producers (John Goodman, Stephen Root) willing to accept his now pseudonymously written screenplays.
Trumbo takes a spirited look at an all too common scenario. A man, Trumbo, is drawn to a political philosophy and falsely accused of using its tenets as a revolutionary to bring down this country’s democratic way of life. Innocent of what he was accused of perpetrating, he becomes a self-styled subversive to decimate an undemocratic structure.
As fellow Tinsel Town upstarts come calling – actor Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman), who needs help with Spartacus, and Exodus director Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel) – the viewer knows that Trumbo, a Wounded Healer, of sorts, is close to eradicating the list for good, as both screenplays he writes for these publicly proclaim his authorship.
What’s in a name? Trumbo makes a strong case: a lot.
Archetype: Rule breaker. Rebel. Humanitarian. Wounded Healer.
Astrology Archetype: ♄ ♅ (Saturn, Uranus)