I’ve always respected Tim Robbins as an actor, and as a director; however, I’m suspicious of his talents as a writer/director. If you saw Robbin’s heavy-handed mockumentary “Bob Roberts”, you know you’re in store for a healthy dose of getting hit on the head with some political and social commentary. I don’t mind the political message, but damn, does Robbins have to be so obvious about his intentions?
“Cradle Will Rock”, which, incidentally, is not based on the classic Van Halen song, is the true story of a 22 year-old Orson Welles and a play (aptly named “Cradle Will Rock”) that takes place at the Federal Theater back in the thirties. The play, which sympathizes with the Unions, is shut down by the U.S. government just before its opening. The play must go on, and a haphazard performance is arranged at an underground theater. The author is the only one allowed on stage to perform the entire play solo when actors from the audience begin to join in the performance. The true story is fascinating, but the story as written and directed by Tim Robbins is an embarrassing mess. Angus MacFadyen delivers an unintentionally laugh-out-loud portrayal of Orson Welles. However, the most ridiculous performance is turned in by John Cusack as a boy-faced J.D. Rockefeller. Cusack has never sucked this bad in his entire career. And what is Susan Sarandon doing with a bad accent and a few meaningless token scenes?
“Cradle Will Rock” is another case of actors trying to write and direct – and failing miserably. I had to restrain myself from walking out of the theater. It’s one of the worst films of the year.