xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
It was a time when the rich flirted with communists and fascists, when the poor stood in bread lines, when the class divide in America came closer to the boil than ever before or since. The 1930s were a decade when the Depression put millions out of work and government programs were started to create jobs. One of them was the Federal Theatre Project, which funded "free theater for the people" all over the country, but was suspected by U.S. Rep. Martin Dies of harboring left-wing influences. Since the last right-wing theater was in ancient Greece, his was a reasonable suspicion.
Tim Robbins' sweeping, ambitious film "Cradle Will Rock" is a chronicle of that time, knitting together stories and characters both real and fictional, in a way similar to John Dos Passos' novel USA. It tells the story of the production of Marc Blitzstein's class-conscious musical "The Cradle Will Rock"; its opening has been called the most extraordinary night in the history of American theater.
Intercut with that production are stories about Nelson Rockefeller (John Cusack), the millionaire's son who partied with the Mexican communist painter Diego Rivera (Ruben Blades) and commissioned his mural for Rockefeller Center; and the newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst (John Carpenter) and fictional steel tycoon Gray Mathers (Philip Baker Hall), who bought Renaissance masterpieces secretly from Mussolini, helping to finance Italian fascism. We meet theatrical giants like Orson Welles (Angus Macfadyen) and John Houseman (Cary Elwes). And little people like the homeless Olive Stanton (Emily Watson), who eventually sang the opening song in "Cradle," and Tommy Crickshaw (Bill Murray), a ventriloquist so conflicted that he helps a young clerk (Joan Cusack) rehearse her red-baiting testimony while his dummy sings "The Internationale," apparently on its own.
There is a lot of material to cover here, and Robbins covers it in a way that will be fascinating to people who know the period--to whom names like Welles, Rockefeller, Hearst and Rivera mean something. For those who don't have some notion of the background, the film may be confusing and some of its characters murky. It needs a study guide, and viewing "Citizen Kane" might be a good place to start.