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Remember the heady days when this was anointed the front-runner by the Oscar blogosphere? It was about the time when everyone realized Reservation Road was going to blow so they turned to the Aaron Sorkin/ Tom Hanks/ Julia Roberts film about war and terrorism and thought, “Hey, that looks good.” Then they all saw it and were all, “n/m back to No Country.” Good times.

I liked Charlie’s, didn’t love it. It’s genuinely funny and very clever. The characters are fairly well fleshed out and the plot is engaging. It never really congealed into something special, however. I’ve never been much of a Sorkin fanboy, though I’ve liked a lot of his work. The dialogue here feels very forced at times. Not necessarily unnatural, but more ill-fitting. Incidentally I watched a bunch of Sorkin’s Sports Night over New Years weekend and sort of found the same thing (and SN is a show I used to adore).

But if you look past that, there’s a lot to enjoy. Even if it sometimes hits the wrong notes, the script is smart and clever. There are a lot of funny moments and the characters are fun to watch, from Hanks’s playboy-Congressman to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sharp-tongued CIA analyst. I enjoyed the DC scenes and all the back room political wrangling. And it’s simply a great story, full of relevance for today’s times with a pretty powerful ending, giving a hint about what we hath wrought.

Charlie Wilson’s War managed a bunch of Golden Globe nominations but just one from the Academy: Best Supporting Actor for Philip Seymour Hoffman. That’s probably about right and Hoffman is terrific as always, stealing a lot of the focus and laughs in every scene he’s in.

January 2008