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« Ding Dong! "Las Culturistas" Calling... | Main | US Scripters Nominations (Gloriously) Add to the Adapted Screenplay Confusion »
Tuesday
Jan162018

Women of "The Post" 

By Spencer Coile 

There is a scene during a climactic moment in The Post where Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), publisher for The Washington Post, wades into a crowd. News outlets and reporters swarm around her, probing her decision to run an article exposing the U.S. government for their involvement in the Pentagon Papers. Without uttering a word, she glides past the press, but the camera slows as Katharine finds herself surrounded by a small group of women in this crowd, all staring at her with admiration. 

The Post serves as a timely reminder for why we should never underestimate the impact one powerful woman can make. Though Katharine Graham is the central female focus of the film, Spielberg's latest work features multiple women: they are reporters, wives, mothers, daughters. Each character provides insight into this pivotal moment in American history. So how does The Post honor their legacy? 

Meryl Streep as Katharine "Kay" Graham 

As the first female publisher for "The Washington Post" (a position that fell on her after her husband's death), Kay entered a field with the odds stacked against her. The film shows us that every decision she makes is micro-managed by the men around her; men who are on her board, but do not have the power to make major decisions for the newspaper. A defining scene features Katharine fretting over the newspaper's IPO and her rehearsing what she will say to members of her board, as well as potential investors in the paper. However, when the meeting begins, she relinquishes the power to speak to her male associate; because he's speaking the male dominated room listens. 

It's abundantly clear that Katharine Graham was paramount to The Post's controversial but successful decision to run their article on the Pentagon Papers. Yet, as complex as Graham is, the film does not offer much nsight about her aside from this singular defining choice. On the surface, Katharine is depicted as complex -- and Meryl surely gives her dimension -- but the film is not interested in who Katharine Graham is, but what she did in that moment. 

Bonus points, though, for that golden caftan. 

Carrie Coon as Meg Greenfield 

Meg, a reporter, won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1978. She was an integral member in the group of journalists who helped to uncover the Pentagon Papers. While Coon gives this tiny role her all, Meg is not offered enough in the film aside from some quippy remarks to her all-male coworkers and the chance to recite the theme of the film: 

The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.

Jessie Mueller as Judith Martin 

I gasped when I saw Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller in The Post -- I had no idea she was in this! Playing a columnist for The Post, Mueller is only featured in a couple of scenes, and is mostly backgrounded. Never mind that Martin wrote an advice column titled "Miss Manners" for decades or worked extensively to explore supposedly simple "rules of conduct," leading to her own "heavy etiquette theory." In this cinematic universe, her only role is to be a side character who was not given access to Nixon's daughter's wedding due to her aggressive reporting. 

Alison Brie as Lally Weymouth

As Katharine's daughter, Alison Brie is is mostly seen offering her screen mother sage advice. Brie and Streep's scenes together are a nice departure from the others in which Kay is bombarded with advice from men. Unfortunately Lally is only the stock supportive confidante. The film attempts to reconcile this threadbare character with one scene between Lally and Katharine, where Katharine attempts to explain the doubt she experiences as a mother, as a leader, and as a woman. Brie is excellent, reacting subtly with one tear rolling down her cheek. She doesn't have to do much; when acting with a beautiful Streep monologue, react accordingly and tear up! 

Sarah Paulson as Antoinette "Tony" Pinchot Bradlee

Saddled with the "supportive wife and mother" role, Paulson makes the most of her limited screentime attempting to breathe some life into Tony Bradlee, wife of Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), the executive editor for The Post. Tony was a sculptor but she mostly spends the film serving sandwiches to Bradlee's employees.

Tony does get an essential scene near the end of The Post. When her husband begins to question Katharine's ability to lead the newspaper, with the stakes so high, Tony offers some female insight. To defy the men who have underestimated her since the beginning of her leadership, to put her career on the line like this is brave. The ideas she spells out may be too scripted but they remind her ambitious husband that being a woman in that time was no easy feat. Paulson sells this moment with quiet dignity. 

Unlike many true story films The Post avoids sharing any details about what happened to these characters after the events that unfolded with the Pentagon Papers. That's not surprising since the film is more about theme than character. The Post is a time capsule for one brief moment in American history but that theme is depressingly relevant to the current political and social landscape.

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Reader Comments (20)

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January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

TRYING AGAIN - testing comments.

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Hooray! Comments are back!

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPoliVamp

I would be MAD if Meryl is not nominated for an Oscar as Kay Graham!

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

I missed these comments so very much. Alas, some of my finest, actually-proofed comments were typed during the blackout, so no one saw some of any of my most nuanced thoughts, o well

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRob

The material is Very Helpful thank you

I was so miffed that Paulson got saddled with a 'supporting wife' role and then she goes and gives that great monologue near the end of the film. Amazing work as always.

Also.... Woo comments are back

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRami

I would call this PEOPLE of the post, because it's true of all the characters

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbill

Yes, love Paulson's monologue. Even if it's very on the nose, sometimes people actually talk like that. Sometimes you have to spell things out for your loved ones who might be missing the point.

I love Brie and thought she was good here, but yet again they miscast someone as Streep's daughter. Both her and Julia Roberts have big, full facial features and Streep has small, pointed features. Her daughters never look like her. It's always odd to me, since they could probably get any actress they want to play opposite Streep.

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

I am glad your site was finally rescued! I saw The Post on Monday and loved it. The beginning is slow, but then it picks up steam and ends up thrilling. The acting is uniformly excellent, with Streep and Hanks both in top form. Streep in particular is fantastic as Katharine Graham. It also has many Spielberg moments, including great use of music, editing and the camera. I do think it's as good as Munich or Bridge of Spies, so I hope people continue to support it in movie theaters. I think it will be seen later as a classic film, especially in the era of Trump, and I totally understand why NBR went for it after they screened it. It's very inspirational, and the audience applauded at the end. I am at this point hoping best picture goes to The Shape of Water or The Post.

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford

Tom Ford-

I saw this Friday night with a full theater of mostly over 50 types in attendance and it got applause at the end.

I really enjoyed it.

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

DJDeejay 'Her daughters never look like her' - except in Ricki and the Flash ;)

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRami

I don't know ... is that even a fair criticism that her movie daughters or mothers don't look exactly like her? That has been true of movies since the very beginning because unrelated people play mother and daughter, or father and son. It's the actor's job to make it work. Did you ever get an explanation why comments were disabled? My first thought was someone hacked it the day before Oscar voting closed to stop any dialogue. The odds of me being nominated may be 80-1, and I will do anything to try and get in, but it was NOT me.

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJessica Chastain

@Jessica - casting is a part of film just like anything else. If you don't see a mother-daughter relationship but just two actresses, it can be distracting or detract from the experience.

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

I didn't hate The Post, but I absolutely understand why it's falling apart in terms of the Awards Season.

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I flipped out when Jessie Mueller showed up. She deserves some film roles.

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterchasm301

I read quite a few reviews and articles on "The Post" that referred to Sarah Paulson's role as Sally Quinn. It's like they forgot Tony Bradlee existed and just wrote her out of Bradlee's narrative.

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Sarah Paulson has played so many super weird roles so it is good for her that we totally believe her in this very normal supporting wife part. I think it's a very good decision actually. Playing opposite Tom Hanks and in a Steven Speilberg film no less. My complain is she does not have a scene with Meryl Streep, that's all.

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJack for Streep

Comments are back!!!!

I was shocked watching this that A) Jessie Mueller was in it as well and B) how a supporting cast this impressive has so little to do. It’s like Spielberg had an extra $30 million in the budget so he decided to spend it all on Name-brand actors who get 1-2 scenes onscreen.

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Saw it last Thursday with a very packed house that was attentive and highly responsive!
Streep was subtle and splendid. Her and Hanks made a great team on screen and I hope she works with them both in the future! I am confident she will get her 21st Oscar nomination.

January 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

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