Like Philomena that I reviewed yesterday, this film was also up for multiple Academy Awards this year, though it too did not win any. It was nominated in 10 categories, including the grand slam of the seven major ones (film, director, actress, actor, supporting actress, supporting actor, screenplay).
Again like Philomena, it is based on a true story though far more loosely connected with the actual events. This was an elaborate sting operation known as Abscam that took place in 1980 which FBI agents posing as Arab sheikhs and their agents bribed US Congressmen in return for favors. You can read the original story and how it differs from the film here.
The trouble with the film its that although it was easy viewing, it suffered from the disease of over-indulgence by the director. Some film makers seem to think that more is always better and add things that make the film lose focus. At 138 minutes, it was just too long. I started getting bored around the 30 minute mark as the setting up dragged on and on, though it got better in the second half. Cutting 30 minutes from it would have made the film a whole lot better.
My strong bias is that a film should last for 90 minutes or so, especially for comedies like this one, or maybe 100 minutes if the story is a little complicated. For example, Philomena clocked in in at 98 minutes, which was just right. Anything over two hours should be reserved for bona fide epics in which there is a sprawling story with multiple threads, and such films should be entrusted only in the hands of directors like David Lean who know how to keep the audience engaged for that long.
Here’s the trailer.