April 8, 2019  (Web Review)

Vice

Fox, 132 min., R, DVD: $29.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $34.99, Apr. 2

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Idiosyncratic writer-director Adam McKay has crafted a devastating portrait of Dick Cheney, opening with TV footage of the then-Vice President’s autocratic assumption of White House power as Manhattan’s Twin Towers burned on 9/11. What’s most remarkable is how a 40-lb. weight gain and makeup/prosthetics transform shape-shifting Christian Bale into venomous Cheney, enabling him to deliver an immersive, powerhouse performance. Propelled by his shrewd wife Lynne (Amy Adams), Cheney rises during the Nixon administration, starting as a scheming aide to conservative Republican Congressman Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), and ultimately becoming the most trusted confidante of George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell). Along the way, Cheney displays unshakable love and support for his openly lesbian daughter Mary (Alison Pill), who is a same-sex marriage advocate. The memorable end-credits scene presents a (fictional) focus group that epitomizes the widening American cultural divide that took root during the tenure of sneering, shadowy Cheney, who was able—as the narrator (Jesse Plemons) notes—“to make wild and extreme ideas sound reasonable.” A surreal black comedy that overdoes the absurdist element (such as staging a Machiavellian/Shakespearean soliloquy in the Cheney bedroom), Vice split critics but also received multiple Oscar nominations (including Best Picture). A strong optional purchase. (S. Granger)