Title: Advise & Consent
Director: Otto Preminger
Music: Jerry Fielding
Cinematography: Sam Leavitt
Personally I will not refute that my contrarian response towards Preminger’s ANATOMY OF A MURDER (1959) years ago, is due to a commonplace disparity of personal taste, which may explain my procrastinated second foray into Preminger’s cannon, the less prominent and awards-snubbed ADVISE & CONSENT.
Personally speaking, political drama is not my genre of passion especially I have grown up from a country where no such type of cinema conspicuously exists, plus basically I have few clues of the structure and framework as regards the complex USA political hierarchy (although thanks to HOUSE OF CARDS, I have assimilated some elementary guidances now), thereby, my ingrained insouciance is the chief impediment.
Efficiently introduced in the very first scene, the central issue is zooming in on the designation of the newly-nominated Secretary of State Robert Leffingwell (Fonda) by the ailing President (Tone), who resorts to Senate Majority Leader (Pidgeon) to facilitate the procedure in the Congress while the main drag force is a senior Senator Cooley (Laughton) who holds a personal ill will against Robert. Then roughly the film can be split into halves, the first one principally concerns a cross-examination of Robert’s communist background in a subcommittee presided by the budding Senator Anderson (Murray), it’s a conflict blurs the lines between truth and lie, which can be implied tacitly as an imperative criterion in politicking and also segues into the second half pertains to Anderson being extorted into an earlier jurisdiction by an envious Senator Van Ackerman (Grizzard), with an extra push from Cooley. Anderson is plagued by the deepest secret about his sexual orientation, as a result, a certain tragic follows. The two glaring talking points (communism and closeted homosexual) come as convenient and topical at the Cold War years, half a century later, propitiously we are lumbering on. At the final act, the Vice President (Ayres) steals the show as a fluke of an arbitrary fabrication on the votes.
For audiences, the most palatable merit is a stellar ensemble body of work, first-billed though, Fonda vanishes completely after two thirds of the story, he is as righteous as in 12 ANGRY MEN (1957); seeing as his swan song, Laughton withstands his splendor wonderfully and his eloquence in oratory is second to none. Two surprisingly enacted performances are from a suave Pidgeon, whose disparaging tongue-lashing to Van Acherman is perfectly on the nose, and a square-shouldered Murray carries a more tortuous story development and emanates an absorbing shock wave. I put all four in leading category, since in supporting circle, Tone, Ayres, Meredith (riveting as a key witness mouthing slanders) and even Tucker (the paunchy pimp totally incongruous with the bureaucratic atmosphere) are equally contending along with a sophisticated Tierney past her prime but her finesse never recedes.
In a nutshell, ADVISE & CONSENT is an exemplar of political drama, and more unexpectedly it beckons a revisit and revaluation of ANATOMY OF A MURDER for me, where I may not give enough credit for Preminger’s calculated camera scheduling and detached phlegm out of his source material.