First, let me be honest about relevant biases I hold. I am not a fan of Tom Hanks. I don't like Forrest Gump, and aside from Big, I've never really understand his massive appeal. I either really enjoy Julia Roberts (i.e. Mona Lisa Smile or Steel Magnolias) or I'm lukewarm about her performances. I think Philip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant in everything he's ever done. Finally, Aaron Sorkin is a dynamic writer.
The dialogue is fast-paced, which I usually adore (i.e. 30 Rock, the funniest show on television). When rapid dialogue coexists with Southern accents, it is sometimes difficult to understand. This movie is all dialogue. I found myself listening too hard to the individual words to always understand the depth of plot. It's certainly a history lesson, and the story is fascinating. Philip Seymour Hoffman steals every scene he's in, and he deserved the Oscar nomination for it. I happen to believe his performance was even better than Javier Bardem's winning performance in No Country for Old Men, but I realize I'm in the minority. Tom Hanks was also fantastic, and I am not one to commonly hold this belief. Julia Roberts, despite having very little to do in this incredibly male driven story, was underwhelming. She's from Georgia, and I know she can do a Southern accent well, but her accent in Charlie Wilson's War was odd and un-Texan. She had a few great lines, but they managed to be more throwaways because of her accent and lack of character development. I would have gladly added ten minutes to the film's running time to see Julia Roberts have more to do.
All things considered, it's definitely worth seeing, but when you watch it, you may want to keep the remote control nearby to pause and rewind the rapidly fired dialogue. Prepare to once again be in awe of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Also, prepare to be absolutely depressed because the story is true. It's brilliance is in its tragedy; the layers of history must be determined after the fact. I give Aaron Sorkin credit for distilling a complicated part of history into a manageable hour and forty-five minute story. I appreciate the tongue-in-cheek depictions of women at the time. The screenplay and the actresses who portray Wilson's support staff manage to allow viewers to celebrate the decadence of the day with a modern view of its sexist underpinnings. It's not a movie I'll need to see again, but it is a movie I'm glad I saw.
Rating: 2.5 stars (really liked it)