December 19, 2008

Review: Nothing But the Truth

Rod Lurie is one of the few guys who cares about writing really strong female characters. I fell in love with his complicated women back when Joan Allen played a hopeful vice-presidential candidate in The Contender. It continued through the too short TV show Commander in Chief that starred Geena Davis as the first female president of the United States.

In his latest film, Nothing But the Truth, a drama very loosely based on the Judith Miller going to jail to protect her source saga, Lurie again brings to the fore some seriously complicated women. Kate Beckinsale who shows acting skills here far beyond what has been demanded or frankly expected of her before, plays Rachel Armstrong an ambitious reporter at a Washington DC newspaper who blows the cover of a Valerie Plame like CIA operative. Vera Farmiga (one of the most interesting and versatile actresses around) plays the subject of the bombshell piece, a suburban mom/covert agent whose daughter just happens to be in the same class as Beckinsale's son.

The outing of Erica Van Doren has devastating consequences for both women in the workplace and at home, illuminating the struggle of working moms everywhere albeit a bit more complicated than usual. Beckinsale's Rachel is pressed to reveal her source and with her paper's backing, she refuses and is jailed. Her ongoing battle to get out of jail and keep her source protected takes up the second half of the film as Rachel becomes a pawn in the legal battles between the government and the press. Lately it seems that the press has been losing these battles. The film shows the personal toll on Rachel and her family.

Farmiga shows the fear and terror with subtlety when she is outed and in that scene you can see her brain working trying to figure out how to make the oncoming avalanche stop knowing full well that she can't. She then gets pissed not only for the fact that her career is now irrevocable changed, but also thinks about protecting her young daughter and her already disintegrating marriage. It's a mess for everyone and that's also what I like about Lurie's women. They're not perfect by any means. I don't need women onscreen to be perfect or above reproach, I like to see them as complicated and realistic and that's what Lurie gives us.

Check out the trailer:

Film opens in Limited release this week and wider in January.
Nothing but the Truth