Who's In It: Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Ben Affleck
The Basics: First there's the murder of a street kid. Then a Congressman's aide. And oops, the Congressman was having an affair with the aide. Are the murders connected? Does it go deeper than anyone imagines? Will a tough veteran reporter and a sassy young blogger learn to work together to solve the case? Does the tough reporter have a crush on the Congresman's wife? Can he be objective? Can he ever learn to comb his shaggy hair or iron a shirt? Will the blogger break down and weep at least once because, you know, she's just a girl and all? Will there be labyrinthine plot twists and unexpected surprises and improbable alliances and occasional suspense? Will journalism seem like it's still totally important?
What's The Deal: Adult dramas and political thrillers seem to be taking a back seat to movies about talking Chihuahuas and teen pop stars with double identities. But you know why that is? Because most of them aren't as smart as the audience they'd like to attract. Oh, I'm sorry, no one saw Duplicity? Well, maybe it shouldn't have been so dull. Having said that, this one isn't bad at all. It's all very "ripped from the headlines" and the characters are more types than people (I was especially into Helen Mirren's performance as the tough-lady news editor who yells stuff like, "I'm taking you off the story!"), but at least it doesn't talk down to you. Much.
What's Good About It: Rachel McAdams, who's always appealing and never seems like she's too young or delicate for the role. It's also entertaining to watch Russell Crowe portray a self-consciously brooding and superior journalist who looks down his nose at bloggers. Here's a man who probably hates actual journalists in real life and he makes you forget about all that here. Better yet, it's grown up and urgent when it needs to be and makes the idea of integrity and political machinery seem like they're worth taking seriously for a bit. It's no All The President's Men, but it'll do.
Weirdest Scene: When Russell Crowe finally has his story together and all the pieces that have been floating around the film are pieced into a whole, he sits down at his computer and writes the sizzling piece of investigative muckrakery. And every person in the office stays late to watch him do it. Like they just sit there and marvel at his word-per-minute rate or something. It's cornier than that genetically modified liquid in your soda can but it's still fun to see it go down.
Other Weirdest Scene: The closing credits scroll over footage of the process of how a newspaper is physically manufactured, from printing to pulling it all together to shipping. It's like one of those old clips they used to show on Sesame Street about how crayons are made. I was kind of transfixed.