I caught Matt Tyrnauer‘s Where’s My Roy Cohn? earlier today at the MARC. How can a study of perhaps the most notoriously ruthless attack-dog attorney in U.S. history be anything but a dark poem? A movie, I’m thinking, about ghosts, demons, banshees, goblins. A merging of fact and nightmare.
The film is actually less poetic than a smart, sturdy, well-assembled thing — an efficient portrait of a closeted, scabrous, old-school shithead. It’s fully respectable as far as it goes, but Cohn’s legend doesn’t feel all that linked or connected in the current zeitgeist. He was raised and shaped in another era, a darker time.
The only element that vibrates is the fact that Donald Trump admires Cohn’s fang-toothed approach back in the day. Yes, Cohn was an inspiration to the youngish Trump in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, but Trump’s hyper-aggressive approach to the rough and tumble of big-time politics, looking to exploit whatever fears and anxieties might be lying around…well, we knew that going in.
How absorbing is Where Is My Roy Cohn? — how sharply assembled, how hard-htting? Very, but at the same time it never really sheds its skin and transforms itself into something you might not see coming. I’m sorry but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Tyrnauer’s Scotty and the Secrets of Hollywood or Studio 54 docs, both of which were released last year.
Cohn was a cold, bloodless, out-for-numero-uno creep, and seemingly a drag to be around. As a subject, I mean, as well as in real life.
I guess I was looking for some kind of crazier current, maybe something borrowed from the realm of Mike Nichols‘ Angels in America. The film is “good,” as far as that goes. Tyrnauer is a gifted, highly intelligent filmmaker. I have no complaints with what it is — I just wish it had unfolded in a loopier, less conventional way.