Live by Night
The key question behind Live by Night isn’t so much “Why did they bother?” as “What went wrong?”
There are at least two ways to approach "Absence of Malice," and I propose to take the second. The first approach, no doubt, would be to criticize this film's portrait of an investigative newspaper reporter -- to say that no respectable journalist would ever do the things that Sally Field does about, to, and with Paul Newman in this movie. She is a disgrace to her profession.
What journalistic sins does she commit in this film? She allows the facts of a secret investigation to be leaked to her. She prints an unattributed story about the investigation. Then she becomes "personally involved with the subject of the investigation," as they say. In other words, she falls in love with Paul Newman. Then she prints another story she should never have printed, and as a result an innocent bystander commits suicide. Then…
But you get the idea. Would real investigative reporters actually commit Field's mistakes, improprieties, misjudgments, indiscretions, and ethical lapses? Generally speaking, no, they wouldn't. And if they did, they shouldn't have. And furthermore, their editors would never let them get away with it. (The unbelievable laxity of the editors in "Absence of Malice" creates the movie's greatest credibility gap.) But let's face it: Sometimes reporters do commit acts such as Sally Field allows herself in this movie. Sometimes news of an investigation is printed without official attribution. And so on.
One of my colleagues cornered me at the water fountain to say indignantly that, whatever else you might think about this movie, you'd have to admit that no reporter would ever sleep with a news source.