Volume 92, Issue 3

Friday, May 29, 1998

big business


Beatty's bull is worth biting

By Dan Yurman
Gazette Staff

It has been argued that cinema and politics make strange bedfellows. Bulworth, the newest political satire to hit theatres, shows the two are quite compatible if looked at from a certain point of view.

Bulworth's plot continuously deals with the choices people make, why they make them and their repercussions. This motif is then meticulously reflected in the movie's cinematic style, which magnificently links the two uncommon elements together into a well crafted, enjoyable experience.

Warren Beatty, who also wrote and directed the film, plays California Senator Jay Billington Bulworth. As a leftwing Democrat, Bulworth has put his principles aside to become a rightwing conservative and remain in office. Disgusted with himself on the weekend before the election, Bulworth takes out a huge life insurance policy and puts a hit out on himself. He then decides to spend his last, sleepless days wearing his heart on his sleeve, telling all his constituents what the world of politics is really all about, while learning a little something about himself and the people he represents.

There are many fantastic sequences in this film, all of which deal with choices. Bulworth must choose between his facade and his true identity on a regular basis, as do the rest of the characters, most of whom believe in and eventually choose image rather than substance. In fact, throughout the majority of the film, the only character sane enough to be comfortable with their true identity is Senator Bulworth – the one portrayed as the most insane.

Cinematically, the film follows this pattern of choices with very well thought out cinematography. Beatty and veteran cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (The Last Emperor, Apocalypse Now) have chosen their shots very carefully, placing great emphasis on what the audience sees and most importantly, when they see it. Fast tracking shots and pinpoint zooms add immensely to both the pace and the implicit meaning of the film. Much like Senator Bulworth, the camera spends a lot of time pointing out the downfalls of urban life and while the senator's style is explicit and outlandish, the camera takes the subtle approach. It parallels the script quite well.

As in any great satire, political or otherwise, it is the actors that save the film from farce. Beatty is superb. His transformation from depression to insanity is believable and funny, especially his "homeboy" routine, combining an aging grace and a hilarity only Beatty could muster.

Halle Berry is great in her role as Nina, the "homegirl" with a brain rather than an attitude. But the real acting genius in this film is Oliver Platt. Playing Murphy, the Senator's chief of staff, Platt is dead on as the uptight, neurotic, completely oblivious to reality political egghead. He provides some of the richest comedic sequences in the film.

Bulworth is a fun, energetic and altruistic look at the world of politics and a true cinematic achievement. Choosing Bulworth as the film to see this weekend would be a wise political move.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998