‘Vice’: an overwhelming satire

Semler at the Cinema features Brandon Semler’s thoughts on the world of film, including reviews, think pieces, previews and more.

By Brandon Semler

“Vice” (2018) is, at the end of the day, a damning portrait of former Vice President Dick Cheney. It is also a bit of a documentary, a bit of educational entertainment, a bit of a comedy and a lot of finger-wagging. 

Some of director Adam McKay’s non-traditional concepts work. Many of them don’t. 

Don’t get me wrong, I would prefer “Vice” to about any hum-drum historical biopic that would warrant multiple looks down at my nonexistent watch. McKay has a vibrant, particularly meta style of satire (at least in “The Big Short” and “Vice”) that makes important, but potentially dull historical material more interesting.

But at the end of the day, “The Big Short” told a coherent and effective story. “Vice” leaves me with a somewhat perplexing stew of thoughts on its subject matter. The film is heavily condemning (at times almost fatiguing) but also reveals a more tender, family-driven and loving side to the character as well. Cheney as a character is well rounded, but his motivation is a bit cloudy (perhaps that’s the point).

“Vice” is humorous throughout, with the non-traditional storytelling often being the joke itself. The film is narrated by a character that is revealed at the end, and this narrator interjects with overwhelming consistency. The problem with the constant explanation is that it undercuts the drama at times, and throws the tempo out of whack. Though the narration gets tiring, a solid-as-always performance from Jesse Plemons helps it out. 

The film is flawlessly cast, from the transformative performances of Christian Bale and Amy Adams to Steve Carrell’s rather hilarious portrayal of Donald Rumsfeld.

I was not a big fan of “Vice,” but it was an interesting experience, especially for the politically interested. 

Status: Recommend for Fans (poltics, big Oscary prosthetic performances, history). 

Brandon Semler can be reached at popdiversifies@gmail.com, or on Twitter @BrandonSemler.

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