RC2 Shrugged


In a feat I expected to be as much an act of love for my husband as sitting through Wagnerian opera, I accompanied Mr. Wheat to Atlas Shrugged, Part I.

I was expecting nothing. You know my views on Ayn Rand. I anticipated something truly dreadful: as camp as Patricia Neal & Gary Cooper in Fountainhead, plus the flaws of a low budget film.

Eh (I'm shrugging here), actually it's pretty fun. There are no household names, but all the actors are recognizable, respectable and competent: they look like they're having fun getting lead roles for once. Don't know where they found the gal to play Dagny Taggart, but she looks and acts exactly the way you picture her from the book: genius casting.

Yes, there is a certain amount of stilted economic theory masquerading as dialogue --which is true to the book. My favorite line was the following, which you have to imagine delivered in a chirpy tone, a la Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney saying they'll get a barn and turn it into a theater:
All this altruism. What's wrong with people these days?
Or when Rearden explains how the Great American Auto Company failed.
They stuck to the flat wage. They continued to pay people according to their need.
Oh, Lordy. Rand always sounds as if she's still back in Soviet Russia; Americans do not talk like that.

But if you can overlook that, they keep the action moving, and they really do a very nice job capturing what is positive in Rand: namely, the defense of the entrepreneur as an admirable figure. The moment when --against the efforts of meddling bureaucrats, union thugs, crony capitalists, phony science, corrupt media and an easily manipulated populace-- the hero and heroine ride their high-speed, light-weight rail at 250 mph across that bridge pictured up yonder is genuinely thrilling. 

We took Eldest Weed with us. He observed the President should love this film: it's about high speed rail!

Update: agree very much with this review ('cept for the liking the book part).
All of this could have moved turgidly along for the 102 minutes of screen time that Part 1 takes, and in the first few minutes, the introductory dialogue seems a little stilted and forced.  The film quickly finds its pace, though, and moves snappily along afterward.  While the plot has been updated to contemporary times, the style of the film hearkens back to Rand’s time.  Dialogue is kept spare and meaningful, and skips the present-day sensibilities of tossing in stock comic-relief characters to lighten the mood. Visually, the film is rich and inviting, and thematically uses both the skepticism of noirish intrigues and the CinemaScope optimism seen in the 1950s and early 1960s, such as in films like Giant, which also had its share of both.
[snip]Grant Bowler’s Henry Reardon is a masterpiece of underplayed power and nuance, easily the best performance in this installment, although newcomer Taylor Schilling does well as the central character in the film.
The best word to describe Atlas Shrugged Part 1 is … surprising.  It’s surprisingly well-paced, surprisingly intelligent, surprisingly well-acted, and surprisingly entertaining.  Perhaps most surprising of all, it has me thinking about re-reading the novel again.  I would highly recommend it to friends and their families.

On the family part: It's PG-13. I think young kids wouldn't follow it. For older kids: the main characters have an adulterous affair depicted in one tame love scene, and then referred to again and again: "You're a married man!" Not much cursing that I can recall, except for one prominent "BS."