Cinemalphabet: P is for Power (1986)
Power was the first Lumet film I went to see in the theater by myself, though the second Lumet film I screened during its original theatrical release. The Wiz was the first. I actually snuck into the theater to see this drama and its unflinchingly hot mess of cinema and story fail were my punishment. This was before I knew January releases were the studio’s way of saying they’d given up on your film. According to my Little Twin Stars diary from February 1986 I was supposed to be watching Clue at the Bad Children’s Theater, but my best friend at the time opted to eat bad pizza and wait for the grown up showing at five. Scandalous!
Here’s the trailer. Sorry it couldn’t be embeded.
So the first thing you’ll notice about the film is all its leads are saddled with some seriously pr0nny ‘staches. Oh my god, can you make sense of the fuzzy action north of Gere’s upper lip. Second thing you’ll notice is Lumet is trying to unpack the world of political campaigning the way he did with Network. Or as Roger Ebert said:
Now Lumet has made a movie named “Power” about the world of professional political campaign organizers, and he seems to have gotten this one right, too. The movie exudes a sense of authenticity, of a subject researched well. The major difference, however, between “Network” and “Power” is that “Network” had a plot and “Power” does not.
Now, maybe the lack of plot is a problem for some, but when Gere is rocking a pronny stache’ and getting shagnasty with both Kate Capshaw and Julie Christie who has time to notice the plot or the fact that for the most part Power doesn’t seem to have one. And that’s cool. It’s not a plot driven film; it’s a film about power broking, offering Gere a chance to use an accent and showboat. If you’ve seen Primal Fear or hell, Mr. Jones you’ve seen Gere do this kind of brassy, sexy, manipulative character. It’s one that’s he’s adept at playing and one he’d be wise to resume playing and leave the saps he’s been portraying of late alone. I see you, Nights in Rodanthe.
Power wasn’t well received – I’m actually surprised Ebert was so kind to it – by audiences or many other critics. They were expecting Network not realizing this was the 80s and Power strikes the most cynical of notes, devoid of the weighty analysis Network spoon fed critics and audiences.