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First Man

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Mark Suszko
First Man
on Oct 31, 2018 at 3:55:45 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Oct 31, 2018 at 3:59:09 pm

I think the key to a good bio pic is: did you feel like you got into the head of the subject of the movie? Did you get a feel for what it was like, to be that person?

I don't know that I did at all with this film.

Then again, maybe the movie was *too* accurate, and not just in the costumes and set design and effects. Armstrong in public was always very reserved, private, closed-off. Part of this you can point to as a default personality of test pilots, being very cool and calm and collected at all times, and you can't turn that on and off. But internalizing your emotional life to such a degree makes it hard for people to relate to oneself. And so while the movie is a visual feast (mostly), I didn't feel like I knew a darned thing more about Armstrong the man than before I sat down in the theater.

Janet, his wife, was a sharp contrast; played with excellence and range by Claire Foy, without ever over-acting, she almost steals the show.

About the camerawork: this movie uses way too much shaky-cam hand-held camera, in places where it makes no storytelling or semiotic sense, and it's distracting enough to take me out of the story in several places, specifically because it was used inappropriately.

Comparing this movie to The Right Stuff: the pilots and astronauts tend to pan The Right Stuff for getting a bunch of small details wrong or over-emphasizing them... but what that movie does well is truly make you feel like you're one of these people, experiencing bits of their life and the emotions involved.

First Man's script, and Gosling's professional, very tightly-controlled performance, may have verisimilitude... but makes it hard to find the human connection.

The big screen experience makes the effects sequences fun. But you could probably wait to watch this on streaming/ PPV.

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