On the day of the Oscar nomination announcement, we got a pretty good idea of what at least one of the aspirants will be for next year’s contest. What else can you gather from the combination of Harvey Weinstein, Meryl Streep and an incendiary political issue? Appearing on, of all places, The Howard Stern Show, Weinstein talked up an upcoming Weinstein Company film called “The Senator’s Wife,” starring Streep, which he described as “big movie like a ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” which will make the National Rifle Association “wish they weren’t alive.”
A Deadline follow-up revealed that the film will concentrate on the legislative fight to pass gun control measures following the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, which ultimately failed to win a Senate vote on a modest, bipartisan bill.
As someone generally contemptuous of the NRA and sympathetic with the goals laid out here, call me a skeptic about this entire project. I can’t imagine it resulting in a good movie, or gaining Oscar traction, or changing a single mind about the gun issue.
First of all, most people who follow this issue know exactly where they stand. Everyone who knows what the NRA is knows how ruthless they are, and they either like that or they don’t. A movie isn’t going to change how they think about it. A lot of stuff has happened around guns in the last few years, especially the Aurora and Sandy Hook shootings, which shook America to their very core. But those things didn’t kill the NRA. If the NRA is ever defeated and rendered politically irrelevant, it won’t be because of a movie.
Secondly, this would be a movie about lobbying and legislating, leading up to an unhappy ending. That doesn’t sound very cinematic. And I get that “Lincoln” was also a movie about a legislative effort, but that movie had a lot going for it- Spielberg, the talents of about two-dozen of the world’s best actors, a successful ending- that “Senator’s Wife” won’t.
And thirdly, trying this hard never works. Pure liberal self-righteousness on the scale promised by Weinstein has just about no track record of success whatsoever, whether in creating a hit, winning awards or leading to a good movie. It can never come across as anything but preachy and hectoring, even to people who agree with the politics. This sounds a lot like “Lions For Lambs” to me- another painfully earnest liberal message movie, also starring Streep, which failed to convince anyone of its quality, even though its ideology- “the Iraq War is bad”- was dead-on.
I don’t like making predictions- which, around Oscar time, can only be a good decision. But I’m fairly certain that at this time next year, “The Senator’s Wife” will be absent from both the Oscar and top ten list conversation. And the NRA will remain relevant.