"The Best Man"
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Produced by: Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann
Written by: Paul Haggis & Martin Scorsese
Score by: John Williams
Cinematography by: Robert Richardson
Edited by: Thelma Schoonmaker
Art Direction by: Dante Ferretti & Francesca Lo Schiavo
Costumes Designed by: Sandy Powell
Based on the Play by Gore Vidal
Ed Harris (Secretary William Russell)
Julianne Moore (Alice Russell)
Jude Law (Senator Joseph Cantwell)
Reese Witherspoon (Mabel Cantwell)
James Garner (Ex-President Arthur Hockstader)
Lauren Bacall (Mrs. Sue-Ellen Gamadge)
Bradley Whitford (Dick Jensen)
Rob Lowe (Don Blades)
Justin Bartha (Sheldon Marcus)
Chris Cooper (Senator Clyde Carlin)
Harry Connick, Jr. (Dr. Artinian)
Emmy Rossum (Catherine)
May the Best Man Win…
Martin Scorsese brings to life Gore Vidal’s classic stage play. It is July 1960, at the Political Convention in Philadelphia. Two men are trying to win their party’s nomination for the White House. One is Former Secretary of State William Russell, a man who suffers breakdowns and sleeps around Washington, D.C. The other is Southern Senator Joseph Cantwell. The two, along with their Campaign Managers, will stop at nothing to reach the White House, even if it means revealing dark secrets about the other’s past. However, in the end, the last man standing may just not be the Best Man.
What The Press Would Say
Martin Scorsese has done it again in creating a classic American film, which may be the film to finally bring him the golden statue he so deserves. Across the board, all of the actors and actresses truly bring their characters to life. Ed Harris and Jude Law, as the two candidates, each show the two opposing sides of 1960s American politics: the traditional conservative and the modern radical.
Behind every leader is a great woman, and both Julianne Moore and Reese Witherspoon fit the bill. Moore has one of the most difficult roles of her film career, playing the wife who knows all about her husband’s “romantic escapades,” but still carrying on with the role of the politician’s wife, for photo purposes. Witherspoon, following up her Oscar for Walk the Line adds wit to the film as Mabel, a former Southern cheerleader-turned Senator’s wife.
In an interesting move, Scorsese selected former The West Wing co-stars Bradley Whitford and Rob Lowe to be the campaign managers. The two, after West Wing, seem to be veterans of politics. Whitford, the campaign manager for Russell, shows the calmness and whit needed to run a campaign. It is Whitford who reveals the plot twist, as he discovers information saying Cantwell was a homosexual while serving in the Army during the war, and hopes to use the dirt to smear the opponent.
Steve Zahn, of 2005’s Sahara, is hilarious as the nervous Marcus Sheldon, the man who reveals the dirt about Cantwell. Harry Connick, Jr., Chris Cooper and Emmy Rossum, though having minor roles, are superb as always. Connick is a hippie doctor that serves as a representative for Russell’s mental health, Cooper plays a side-switching senator, while Rossum is Russell’s awe-struck secretary. Connick also croons the title song, “The Best Man,” heard in the end credits.
But if there are two that stand out, it would have to be movie veterans Garner and Bacall, who would be shoe-ins for Academy Award nominations. The two show great stars never fade. Garner portrays the dying former president, whose support his absolutely necessary to win the nomination. But it is Bacall who steals every scene she is in. Bacall plays the National Committee Woman, who rallies the women’s votes. Bacall is both serious and funny as she describes to Alice Russell how the perfect first lady must “not do too much like Eleanor Roosevelt,” but “not too little like Mamie Eisenhower,” or how she steals the spotlight from both Alice and Mabel at a news conference. Mrs. Gamadge may be Bacall’s new defining role.
Not only is the acting great, the production is shining. John Williams has spun a wonderful musical score, with intricate themes for each of the two campaigns. Schoonmaker once again creates the perfect cut with her film editing. Standing out are Schoonmaker’s fast and short cuts of the convention hall.
All in all, The Best Man is Scorsese’s greatest film yet. He captures all the edge-of-your-set action found at a political convention, when the delegates’ votes are at stake, along with the mud-slinging. The film is sure to gain Oscar gold, with an early campaign already in full swing.
Best Director – Martin Scorsese
Best Actor – Ed Harris, Jude Law
Best Actress – Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon
Best Supporting Actor – James Garner, Bradley Whitford
Best Supporting Actress – Lauren Bacall
Best Adapted Screenplay - Paul Haggis & Martin Scorsese
Best Original Score – John Williams
Best Original Song – “The Best Man”
Best Cinematography – Robert Richardson
Best Film Editing – Thelma Schoonmaker
Best Art Direction –Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo
Best Costume Design – Sandy Powell