It’s just the Dolby Cinema sensory overload talking (ten days later, even), but my favorite thing about The Northman is it may be the closest I ever get to Skyrim: The Motion Picture. Granted, in his painstaking simulation of a savage tenth-century Scandinavia, co-writer/director Robert Eggers has omitted dragons, magic, nonhuman races, skill leveling, heavy armor, and evil demon gods. Such is the movie biz, where compromise is inevitable and was definitely not a Viking invention.
Remember the four worst things that ever happened to you? The four biggest challenges to your family, livelihood, reputation, or whatever? Now imagine if an evil time-travel despot had folded your timeline in on itself and all four moments of The Worst had befallen you in the same week. Be grateful they didn’t, but just imagine…what if? Enormous pain, right?
That’s the narrative conceit of Being the Ricardos, the third true-story project from writer/director Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7, Molly’s Game), yearning to avoid the trappings of a formulaic three-hour biopic, with their pedestrian history-book retelling and their leaps and bounds across their subject’s unremarkable years to deliver the Good Parts version of someone’s life. If it’s inescapable that your Hollywood production will bend some truths to achieve Art no matter what, why not embrace compromise and use your truth-bending skills to weave a smaller, tighter basket and have all the conflicts happen at the same time? While we’re at it, why not also have a film in which Queen Elizabeth II mourns the death of her father, Winston Churchill, Princess Diana, and Prince Philip all happening in the same week? Historians would have apoplexies, but just imagine the potential pageantry of a Hollywood-designed four-way royal funeral procession.
My wife and I first heard of Lion when we attended last fall’s Heartland Film Festival preview night here in Indianapolis. I’m sorry we missed its festival screening, but now that it’s been nominated for Best Picture, once again the film and I crossed paths as part of my annual Oscar quest.