Spielberg has apparently always wanted to bring a story about Lincoln to the big screen, and he’s got some great material to work with here: it was based on a popular 2005 biography called “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” and the screenplay was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tony Kushner (Angels in America). Daniel Day-Lewis plays Lincoln, a man hell-bent on passing the 13th Amendment and abolishing slavery, and willing to sacrifice friends, bend laws and risk his marriage in the process. We also get a glimpse of his relationship with his wife Mary Todd (played convincingly by Sally Field) and the type of father that he was. Aside from the physical resemblance, Day-Lewis is perfection as Lincoln: just hand him the Best Actor now and be done with it.
This has been a big hit on the festival circuit: John Hawkes, an Oscar nominee for Winter’s Bone, stars in the true story of Mark O’Brien, a poet and polio victim who spends his nights in an iron lung and is almost completely immobile. With the blessing of his friend and priest (played by William H. Macy) Mark hires a sexual surrogate to help him lose his virginity at age 38. “I think God will give you a pass on this one,” says Father Brendan. The therapist is played by Helen Hunt, who has more than her share of full-frontal nude scenes: a brave undertaking for an actress who’s almost 50. So well-written and plausibly acted that you’ll feel like you’re standing in the corner of the room spying on their sessions. Great performances, but the subject matter may just be too raw to appeal to a wide audience.