31 October 2008

SILKWOOD (Dir. Mike Nichols, 1983, US) - False liberalism

Any film that stars Cher is bound to have an affect on the spectator that can only be best described as inducing a pre-meditated emotional response commonly associated with those who suffer from nausea brought on by Hollywood's pretentious claim to embodying an unquestionable brand of liberalism. Directed by Mike Nichols, written by Nora Ephron and starring Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell and Cher, 'Silkwood' is based on the true story of Karen Silkwood, a worker at a plutonium processing plant who begins noticing illegal practises and slowly becomes politically active by joining the local Union and arguing for greater change in the workplace. However, Karen's newly found sense of activism conflicts with the uncompromising ideals of the corporation that begins its own violent persecution. Though you can probably understand the noble intentions behind wanting to make such a film, especially given the fact that Karen Silkwood is a compelling character, the film's sense of liberalism is false, preachy and sentimental drivel. Nichols and Ephron seem more interested in elevating the performance of Meryl Streep and this means the film approaches what should have been a deeply angry, provocative and politically charged narrative with a disappointing level of female melodrama which takes away the focus from exploring the pathological nature of corporate ideology.

Cher plays a confused lesbian, Kurt Russell swaggers around crushing beer cans whilst Streep works through her usual neurotic mannerisms with such clinical precision that one is left wondering if this is a film that is trying much too hard to make itself appear as though it was a serious and tough piece of political cinema. A unique aspect of 'Silkwood' is that it makes you develop a special kind of contempt for an actress like 'Cher' (her idea of instant lesbian status is by brushing her hair down over her eyes, wearing ugly clothes from a jumble sale and acting permanently moody) who is perhaps one of the most annoying and unlikely of film stars to have been produced by Hollywood in the contemporary era.

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