On the Corner of Hollywood and ‘Vice’

Hello, I’m the movie narrator from “Vice,” the controversial Dick Cheney biopic starring Christian Bale. Are you upset that your liberal family tried to drag you to see this film when you really wanted to watch “The Mule”? Dude, that’s a holiday bummer.

Well, I’m here to help. What’s better than a movie review? A movie summary. So here goes.

TITLE CARD

We first read a disclaimer explaining that if there are any mistakes in “Vice,” it’s because the Cheney family is so darn “secretive.” Hey! That’s a great excuse for the New York Times! Make a note of that.

INT. NIGHTCLUB—NIGHT

Drunk young white women are dancing like maniacs in a club because they’re too dumb or distracted to understand politics. The nerve! The movie claims their apathy is caused by economic inequality.

Yeah, I don’t get it either.

EXT. PRAIRIE—DAY

We see a young Dick Cheney high up on a telephone pole, fixing a line for the power company.

Whoops! One of Cheney’s co-workers has fallen and broken his leg. The others surround him. “Get back to work!” shouts their boss—a future Trump voter, no doubt. They do, leaving him on the ground writhing in pain. Typical red state behavior, am I right?

INT. HOME—DAY

After getting arrested twice for drunk driving, Cheney listens as his girlfriend Lynne tells him to straighten up and fly right. She gives him a feminist speech about how she “can’t go to a big Ivy League school or run a company or be mayor, that’s just the way the world is for a girl.” If you believe Lynne Cheney played the victim card here, I’ve got land in Wyoming to sell you.

INT. WHITE HOUSE—2001

We flash forward to 9/11. During the terrorist attack, Vice President Cheney gives orders to shoot down any planes that appear to pose a threat. He claims he has presidential authority, but refuses to call President Bush to confirm. Is this the way it really happened? Hey, don’t ask me. Remember, Cheney was too secretive.

INT. WHITE HOUSE—1970s

In a flashback, we see Cheney beginning a lifelong friendship with Donald Rumsfeld, both of whom would serve as chief of staff for President Gerald Ford. When Cheney asks Rummy, “What do we believe?” he is literally laughed out of the room. Because, of course, Republicans have no beliefs beyond the accrual of raw power. Make a note of that.

INT. WHITE HOUSE—2000s

Fast forward to the George W. Bush Administration, where Cheney holds court with his foreign policy advisers. After polishing off a danish, he tells them to “go pick up” and torture a Muslim cleric based in Milan who, it is implied, is a peace-loving innocent bystander.

Later, President Bush is shown giving an Oval Office speech to the American people announcing the liberation of Iraq. His leg is jiggling nervously under the desk. Meanwhile, an innocent Iraqi is shown jiggling his own leg as he hides under a desk with his family while bombs drop around him. That’s called moral equivalence. It’s a Hollywood favorite.

EXT. WYOMING—DAY

After Cheney suffers a heart attack while running for Congress, Lynne gives a campaign speech attacking “bra-burners” in New York City. “You know what women in Wyoming do with their bras? We wear them!” she says to an audience of shirtless men. Crazy red staters, am I right?

INT. REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION—1980

It’s now 1980, and Ronald Reagan is running for president. He leads an “unlikely revolution of the super rich and white conservatives,” according to the movie, including those angry about civil rights. At the convention Reagan says, “make America great again!” Subtle.

INT. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES—DAY

Rep. Cheney votes against a holiday for the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. The movie fails to note that President Reagan signed the holiday into law on November 2, 1983. Hey, you can’t cover everything in two hours.

INT. BEDROOM—NIGHT

Now Dick and Lynne Cheney engage in a Shakespearean colloquy in their bed. The audience is reminded that they’re power-mad monsters driven by a modern Lady Macbeth. Another lazy Hollywood trope.

You get the picture. “Vice” plays fast and loose with other historical facts, such as the victorious Gulf War, which is barely mentioned, and George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004, which is never mentioned at all.

It also gets the little things wrong; there is no “George Bush Senior,” for instance, and the name is “Mary Matalin,” not “Matlin.” A typo in the credits? Unheard of. But don’t hold us accountable. Remember, Cheney was very secretive.

INT. FOCUS GROUP—DAY

Finally, there is a scene during the end credits where a focus group is disrupted by a Trump supporter who physically attacks an innocent “libtard.” Just in case you didn’t get the message over the previous two-plus hours.

So that’s “Vice.” Now you can tell your friends and family that you saw it—what’s one more lie?—and go buy your ticket to a more accurate, fact-based film. Such as “Mary Poppins Returns.”

Photo credit: Annapurna Pictures

About John Herr

John K. Herr is a writer who served in the White House under President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush. He has written speeches and jokes for numerous governors and cabinet secretaries, including two appointed by President Trump. He lives in Pennsylvania.

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