I was working last Saturday morning when I stumbled over a review for the new movie, Lincoln. This reminded me that I wanted to see this movie. While I’ve always been a student of the Civil War, the recent U.S. election has had me thinking about it more than ever, mostly because Fox News apparently doesn’t know that it’s over.
I don’t go to movies, however. I think about it, but then I remember that I will have to sit in a huge crowded room where someone has jacked the sound up to 11 so I can watch 30 minutes of ads surrounded by people who can’t go 90 minutes without eating or 2 minutes without texting or 30 seconds without talking.
But as I sat there, I knew this movie required the majesty of a large screen. I mean, Abraham Lincoln was tall. Daniel Day Lewis would have to stoop over to even fit him in the frame at a full sized theatre. I also realized that I could go to the cinema in the daytime, and I could go by myself. This was something of a revelation. I used to go to movies on my own, but after the Blair Witch Project with its single unstable camera made me all carsick and I had to drive myself home, I stopped doing that.
To celebrate the decision of going to a movie on my own, I called my friend Arlene and invited her along. Ari, 18, wandered into the kitchen as I hung up the phone.
“You’re not going to a movie,” he said.
“Yes I am. Lincoln. But I’m just worried it will be sold out. It only opened yesterday.”
“Sold out? Are you kidding? It’ll just be old smart people.”
Arlene and I got great seats, and proceeded to covertly judge every single person who sat down near us. My biggest concerns were a young couple beside me had enough popcorn to swim in and a woman behind us who was giving a dissertation to her companion on The Civil War.
An hour into the movie, I was ready to kill the man near me who was eating popcorn. It wasn’t just that he was rummaging around in the bag like he’d lost a small child; it was that he was eating with his mouth open. This is not your living room, though you shouldn’t eat with your mouth open anywhere. He ate with the precision of a metronome, if metronomes ate popcorn.
I tried to concentrate on the film. Sally Field has a small but important role as Mary Todd Lincoln, though every time she was on screen in the voluminous dresses of the period, I could only think of Carol Burnett as Scarlett O’Hara descending the staircase in her gown made of curtains. This is why YouTube exists.
It took me a few distracted moments to recognize the tough kid from The Bad News Bears. And the guy from Mad Men. And Tommy Lee Jones with bad hair. James Spader got fatter and Hal Holbrook got older and John Hawkes got cuter and I finally realized the price you pay for a stellar cast is an audience that feels like it stumbled into a class reunion. Daniel Day Lewis is Lincoln, I’m happy to report.
My Civil War scholar contained herself quite well throughout, though her reactions made me smile about a movie that is technically unable to require spoiler alerts.
When she clapped at the historic vote on slavery, I considered warning her when the Lincolns got dressed for the theatre.