Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Even in 1999, Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams were going to be acting stars

     It’s been forty years since the Watergate hearings and there’s currently a self-congratulatory documentary by Robert Redford about All The President’s Men then and now to commemorate that anniversary, but Dick (1999) starring Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams says more perhaps about ‘the long national nightmare’ than the more serious works.  Dunst and Williams play teenagers who accidentally involve themselves in the Watergate break-in, while trying to mail a letter
to win a date with Bobby Sherman.  From there, they develop crushes on Richard Nixon, while being his secret Youth Strategists and walking Checkers (the 3rd or 4th), the dog that hates him.  Things go wrong when they discover Nixon’s tapes and turn their stories over to Woodward and Bernstein as ‘Deep Throat.’

Dunst and Williams with Dexter on the Mall
     Dick nails the look, fashion, and music of the early ‘70s but also the era’s socio-political issues such as the Vietnam draft, recreational drug use, U.S.-U.S.S.R détente, pop teen idols, the generation gap, and the power of the press.  The strong script by director Andrew Fleming and Sheryl Longin does this while also presenting a pretty accurate history of Nixon’s presidency even while parodying it.  

Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams in the Oval Office
The four main performers are pitch perfect, with Dunst already demonstrating the wild exuberance that is the key to her stardom as the flirty Betsy and Williams finding a range as the nerdy Arlene that might not really be there in the script.  She may be the supreme chameleonic movie actress of her generation and the moment where Arlene first tries putting in and wearing contact lenses is hilarious.  Devon Gummersall as Betsy’s stoner, porn-watching brother is also a stretch from sweet, dorky Brian Krakow on My So-Called Life.  He’s kept on working, but I haven’t seen him in anything else.  Dan Hedaya (Carla’s ex-husband on Cheers) is far more 
Dan Hedaya as Tricky Dick
persuasive as Tricky Dick than Anthony Hopkins during his sweat fest in Oliver Stone’s Nixon.  I thought he was having a heart attack for three hours and wondered why no one would call a medic. 

Witnesses to the Document Shredding
     The only sour notes are Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch as Woodward and Bernstein, respectively.  Ferrell is good, but he doesn’t have the prickly, WASP/Jewish chemistry with McCulloch that Redford and Hoffman had.  McCulloch does a bit with his wig that isn’t funny and then repeats it about three times.  He was quirky and fresh as a member of The Kids in the Hall, but not in his scenes here.  The irony about All The President’s Men was that Redford seemed like the conscientious rabbinical student while Hoffman was the smooth sexy one.  Fortunately, Redford provided the foundation for a couple of generations of daring, intelligent filmmakers at a time when Hollywood turned itself into a brothel catering to the violent fantasies of fifteen-year-old boys or those that think that way.  Dick wasn’t a big hit at the time and it’s not a cult favorite like Election and I think it’s because teens and young adults didn’t know or remember Watergate.

No comments: