Truth premiered yesterday at TIFF!
Introduced hiring a lawyer who will represent her during an internal investigation that CBS is conducting, Mapes initially comes across as a figure only moderately less wired and desperate than the Xanax-popping socialite Blanchett played in “Blue Jasmine.”
Suffering only from a measure of familiarity when set beside the actress’s other work, Blanchett’s performance is forceful yet delicately shaded, and she renders Mapes with admirable complexity: We see a hard-working wife and mother who struggles to find time with her supportive husband (John Benjamin Hickey) and young son, but also a tough-as-nails producer whose excitement outstripped her attention to detail at one crucial moment. She is, too, a successful career woman frequently accused of harboring a radical feminist agenda and/or allowing her liberal politics (which is to say, her emotions) to interfere with her professional distance — a charge that Vanderbilt allows Mapes to answer with blistering eloquence in one of his most pointedly written and directed scenes.
The film’s focus is on Mapes, played by Blanchett as a whip-smart, shiv-sharp newshound whose pursuit of the truth may have blinded her to more practical fact-checking problems. The movie might have been adapted from Mapes’s 2005 memoir, but Truth doesn’t sanctify or lionize its controversial author: Instead, she’s portrayed here as unapologetically hard-charging — even when she might be charging in the wrong direction — and Blanchett’s performance, one of her best, finds her wielding Mapes’s intelligence as both a weapon and a defense mechanism. Blanchett has already stirred up serious Oscar talk with this year’s forthcoming, universally belovedCarol; her turn in Truth makes a double nomination totally plausible.
Blanchett, a commanding figure who scowls her way through every argument, gives Mapes an involving screen presence that elaborates on the character’s staunch resolve much better than the straightforward script. Fortunately, “Truth” mostly stays with Mapes, and Blachett embodies her with a delightful spark even as her professional life collapses.
The cast play their roles with dignity, even if they aren’t given much dimension. This particularly cripples Redford as Dan Rather, who winds being left with the most to lose as the Bush story goes south. But the film would have us believe he comfortably rolled with the punches as his reputation was dragged through the mud, while playing America’s paternal courier of journalistic courage right to the end. Meanwhile, Blanchett eagerly steps in the role of the scrappy Mapes, and though her part is both precise and predictably played, it’s not a great shock that when given the shot to utilize a few more muscles, she knocks it out of the park. A heartbreaking telephone conversation between Mapes and her father is genuinely moving, and Blanchett is beautifully brittle in a key deposition scene.
For starters, Truth is blessed with another galvanizing performance by Blanchett, who comes on strong but in a very human way as a high-powered newswoman seemingly at the top of her game. Blanchett gives this dynamo of intelligence and doggedness a real human dimension that allows the propulsive drama to breathe; it’s another stellar performance that rates among her best.
Much will likely be heard in the coming months of Blanchett’s fiery performance as Mapes, who is portrayed as thorny and complicated but driven by passion and idealism. The film, which opens in theaters Oct. 16, builds toward a climactic speech in which Mapes tells off the panel assigned to investigate her reporting. It’s a knockout moment for Blanchett.