Monday, November 17, 2014

Dick (1999 film)

Directed by Andrew Fleming and written by Fleming and Sheryl Longin, Dick is the story of two teenage girls who meet Richard Nixon as they become secret youth advisors only to reveal his secrets to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as the mysterious Deep Throat. A fictional take on the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon’s resignation, the film is a comedic story about the ideas of who Deep Throat in the form of two sweet-natured but dim-witted girls. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Ana Gasteyer, Will Ferrell, Bruce McCullough, Jim Breuer, Saul Rubinek, Teri Garr, Dave Foley, Harry Shearer, and Dan Hedaya as Richard Nixon. Dick is a truly hilarious and entertaining film from Andrew Fleming.

The film is a fictional take on the Watergate scandal that destroyed the political career of President Richard Nixon who would resign in disgrace in August of 1974 after some revelations over what happened at the Watergate Hotel two years earlier by people in his administration. All of it revolves around two teenage girls where one of them was living in the Watergate hotel as they were mailing a letter to win a contest to meet Bobby Sherman where they run into G. Gordon Liddy (Harry Shearer) and led to the arrest of several men connected to the Nixon administration. Upon meeting Nixon during a school field trip by befriending his dog Checkers, they become secret youth advisors where they would influence Nixon to connect with the American public until they learn who he really is where they would reveal their information to Bob Woodward (Will Ferrell) and Carl Bernstein (Bruce McCullough).

The film’s screenplay definitely focuses on the antics of Betsy Jobs (Kirsten Dunst) and Arlene Lorenzo (Michelle Williams) as they’re just a couple of American teenage girls who love everything that was around in the 1970s. Yet, their encounter with Nixon is one of many accidents that occur as they would be involved in some of Nixon’s great achievements during his second term while be responsible for things such as the 18 ½ minute gap that was missing from one of the tapes Nixon recorded. Many of the people that are involved with the Watergate story are portrayed for laughs such as Nixon’s attorney John Dean (Jim Breuer) as a very innocent man who feels guilty while G. Gordon Liddy is seen as a buffoon. Woodward and Bernstein are also portrayed for laughs with Bernstein as this smallish ladies man while Woodward is seen as the desperate straight man. Even some of the dialogue maintains the sense of humor such as a scene where Arlene asks Betsy about the meaning of Deep Throat which Betsy whispers into Arlene’s ear as it shows how innocent they are.

Andrew Fleming’s direction is quite straightforward in terms of the world that is the 1970s in Washington D.C. as it plays into the lives of these two young girls. Some of which involves antics that are quite funny as it plays to how dim-witted the girls are at times yet they mean well. Even as it includes a very hilarious subplot where Arlene falls for Nixon as she would be the cause that would have Nixon erase 18 ½ minutes from tapes he had recorded. There’s also some dramatic liberties that Fleming takes advantage in order to keep things funny such as the Nixon-Leonid Brezhnev peace accord. Much of the compositions are simple in order to create something that feels naturalistic as well as in scenes to re-create important moments in history. Especially in the idea that a couple of young girls would be the one that would be the one to take Nixon down. Overall, Fleming creates a very witty and fun film about two girls taking down Richard Nixon.

Cinematographer Alex Gruszynski does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it‘s very colorful to play into much of the sunny look of Washington D.C. as well as some of the interiors and lighting such as the Watergate break-in. Editor Mia Goldman does terrific work with the editing as it‘s straightforward with some stylish jump-cuts and montages to play into the film‘s humor. Production designer Barbara Dunphy, with set decorator Donald Elmblad and art director Lucinda Zak, does brilliant work with the look of the Oval Office and some parts of the White House as well as Arlene‘s room and her wall that featured Bobby Sherman at one point only to be replaced by Nixon. Costume designer Deborah Everton does fantastic work with the costumes from the youthful clothes that the girls wear that expresses their love of fashion.

Visual effects supervisors Michael Lennick and Ray McMillan do nice work with some of the few visual effects such as backdrops for some scenes set in the White House exteriors. Sound editor Steve D. Williams does superb work with the sound from the way some of the police sirens sound to some of the things that occur inside the White House including the sound of the tape recordings. The film’s music by John Debney is pretty as it‘s mostly low-key which is just orchestral music to play into the suspense and humor while music supervisor Ralph Sall creates an absolutely delightful soundtrack that features music from the Jackson 5, Yes, Grand Funk Railroad, Elton John, ABBA, LaBelle, George McCrae, Harry Nilsson, Bread, Love Unlimited Orchestra, Redbone, David Essex, Carly Simon, and a couple of covers by Michelle Williams and Sixpence None the Richer.

The casting by Pam Dixon is incredible as it features one hell of an ensemble that includes small roles from Ryan Reynolds as a boy Betsy flirts with at Bob Haldeman’s house, Devon Gummersall as Betsy’s stoner brother Larry, French Stewart as a TV interviewer at the beginning of the film, G.D. Spradlin in one of his final performances as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, Ana Gasteyer as the President’s secretary Rose Mary Woods, Ted McGinley as Arlene’s mother’s new boyfriend, Karl Pruner and Shannon Lawson as Betsy’s parents, Len Doncheff as Leonid Brezhnev, and Teri Garr as Arlene’s lonely mother. Harry Shearer is terrific as the very threatening but buffoonish G. Gordon Liddy while Dave Foley is excellent as the White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman who is depicted as a total asshole. Jim Breuer is fantastic as Nixon’s lawyer John Dean who would feel guilty for working with Nixon while Saul Rubinek is wonderful as Henry Kissinger who often feels left out by Nixon while having a great duet of Hello Dolly with Brezhnev.

Will Ferrell and Bruce McCullough are hilarious in their respective roles as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with Ferrell as the straight man who is trying to maintain his serious reputation while McCullough brings a more comical approach to the role of Bernstein in his attempt to be very good-looking. Dan Hedaya is phenomenal as the titular character as he brings a lot of humor to the role of Nixon while being a mean man who kicks his dog and is very prejudice as Hedaya puts a lot of gravitas as Richard Nixon. Finally, there’s Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams in sensational performances in their respective roles as Betsy and Arlene. Dunst is the more ditzy of the two as she has this charm that makes her so delightful to watch while Williams is the more introverted as she falls for Nixon. The two together have great chemistry together in the way they play out each other as well as admit the fact that they are dumb girls.

Dick is a remarkable film from Andrew Fleming that features amazing performances from Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, and Dan Hedaya as Richard Nixon. It’s a film that manages to take a unique premise and make it very enjoyable while it is also oddly compelling for the fact that it does play with American history. Even to the point of subverting some facts and things that really happened and get away with it. In the end, Dick is an incredible film from Andrew Fleming.

© thevoid99 2014


ruth said...

Hi Steven! I saw this one quite a while ago and I think I enjoyed it, but now I can't remember much about it. I might rewatch it at some point though.

thevoid99 said...

It was on TV this past weekend and I ended up watching it. I just love the film as it's so funny.

My favorite scene is Brezhnev and Kissinger doing a duet of "Hello Dolly" while high on cookies laced with weed.

Brittani Burnham said...

Ha, I loved this movie when I was a teenager. I loved anything with Kirsten Dunst, really. I should give this a watch again sometime. Great review!

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani Burnham-I enjoyed the film when it came on TV. I like it even more now. It's just so funny and plus, how can you not adore Kirsten and Michelle? Those 2 should do another film together.