Advise And Consent Movie Review
Otto Preminger turned his eyes from the legal system (Anatomy of a Murder) to American politics in the underseen and tragically underappreciated Advise and Consent.
The film plays out on a Red Scare-era senate floor, where the ailing president has put Fonda up as his nominee for Secretary of State. Naturally, party politics erupt as the conservatives try to discredit Fonda, eventually turning up a witness who claims he was involved in a communist party of sorts years ago. Meanwhile, another plot erupts from the other side of the aisle, accusing Fonda's main detractor (Don Murray) of equally nefarious activities (at least for 1962).
Above both of them are senior senators played by Walter Pidgeon and Charles Laughton (clearly on his last legs here, this was his final movie), who play puppetmasters over their younger charges.
Advise and Consent may not be completely realistic -- and the timing of Consent's machinations are uncannily tidy -- but as a time capsule look into American politics in the '60s it couldn't be more insightful. Preminger may have been Austrian, but he understood exactly how corruption, dedication, vindictiveness, and -- above all -- the awfulness of party politics have left America with a bareful functional democracy today. Though the action, so to speak, takes place almost entirely behind closed doors and in committee meetings, it couldn't be more involving. What will become of Fonda -- who ends up being just a minor player in this drama? We're hanging on until the last frame, until ultimately, we realize that that decision doesn't really even matter. It was just another meaningless vote that will be followed by another meaningless vote and another and another. Spooky.
Great performances all around, with Pidgeon stealing the show as the guy you'd definitely want as your senator -- if, that is, you had to have one.