Political intrigue and the personal life of the man at the center of it all drive the George Clooney vehicle Michael Clayton, which is unfortunately dragged by severe plot complications and writing missteps.
Clooney (Syriana, Ocean’s 13) stars as the titular character, who is a “fixer” for a prestigious law firm handling a class action law suit against a chemical company who released hazardous weed killers. A fixer is a man who isn’t a lawyer or partner in the firm, but handles any problems that come up during the course of a case. Clayton is trying to fix a fellow lawyer’s mental breakdown during the middle of proceedings, all the while dealing with his financial woes and issues with his son, who lives with Clayton’s ex-wife.
As I saw it, there were three separate stories being told in this film. There was the Erin Brockovich-esque class action lawsuit against a major company. Then the mental breakdown of Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson, Batman Begins) that could damage said proceedings. And then there’s the personal life of Clayton.
Which story was the primary focus of the film? Well, all three were. Writer Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum) makes his directorial debut with Clayton, and he unfortunately could not find a clear focus for the the film. There was too much story being told. At the end of the movie, I honestly didn’t care about the characters and what happened to them, because I didn’t know I was supposed to. Gilroy spread the film too thin and the only people who get hurt is the audience.
This isn’t to say it’s a bad film. Each story stands very well on it’s own merits. Personally I think both the lawsuit and Clayton’s personal life could have taken a backseat to the Arthur Edens plot line. It would have been a much richer and more interesting film.
And the acting is definitely not to go without notice. Clooney has made it known that he is one of the best actors working today, and his work in films like Clayton only prove this. He’s already got the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, this film more than shows that he deserves a Best Lead Actor Oscar. Wilkinson gives a quirky performance as a man at his wit’s end with modern society and big conglomerations.
It’s one of those movies where I could really take it or leave it. There are aspects that are really good and stand out as strong positives. But the negatives are just too prominent.