Runtime: 2 Hours
and 12 Minutes
Tim Robbins makes good movies. He also makes very political ones.
But I don't mind that. Politics and religion are two areas that we
are not supposed to discuss, right? Well, why not? When you get right
down to it, those things that people hold most sacred, those views
that most people guard most closely, are the ones that make up a big
part of who we are. After all, who are you, really, if not what you
"The Cradle Will Rock" is about all the big ideas. It is
about unions, and power, and money and politics and creativity and
creative freedoms. It is about things of the mind. It is a story of
the government and political ideals and Communism and dangerous subjects.
And it is rousing and rallying and very entertaining. It is filmed
in glorious, old-fashioned style, yet with the visual experimentation
of a P.T. Anderson or Orson Welles film.
Which makes perfect sense, since it is, in part, about Welles. It
concerns Orson Welles and a troupe of actors as they attempt to put
on a muscical that is about Unionization. The play is sponsored by
the Federal Theater Association, which (in the 1930's) caused plays
to be put on with full government support. During the Depression it
was one of the only ways that people could afford to put plays on.
But how can you put on a play attacking capitalism and yet fund it
with the money of a capitalist government? The film is full of ironic
little touches like that. At one point, their theater shut down, the
actors and musicians learn that if they perform this "Pro-Union"
production, the Actors and Musicians Union will kick them out and
make it impossible for them to get work.
There are dozens of characters in this piece, and each of them is
a meaty role for the actors involved. Actors as diverse as Bill Murray,
Susan Sarandon, Philip Baker Hall and Emily Watson are all given a
wealth of meaty characters to sink into. And each of them gives their
all. The ones that most impress: Hank Azaria as a driven writer who
is worried that the director in charge of his material has no idea
what he is trying to say with it, Emily Watson as a homeless actress
looking for a big break, and Bill Murray as a Communist-paranoid puppeteer
who, at one point, believes that even his puppet is guilty of being
The one main problem I had with the film was that it made its points,
fantastic as they are, just a little too often. The film seems to
be hitting us over the head with the material at certain points rather
than letting us explore it for ourselves. But I did admire the way
each character was shown in an equal light. Each character has their
good points as well as their bad and you are allowed to judge and
think for yourself.
Still, this quibble is not enough to keep me from recommending "The
Cradle Will Rock", and recommending it rather highly. It is a
movie that will entertain you, teach you about events of the past,
and make you think.