Cradle Will Rock - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Cradle Will Rock Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ April 15, 2016
In a word: "Disgusting". Not only is this film radically Marxist (even the Depression-era unions and FDR are depicted as selling out the workers as they march toward revolution!), but it's the most anti-Semitic film I ever recall seeing from a modern Hollywood production. Although the film's central hero, Marc Blitzstein, was of Jewish heritage as a matter of historical fact, that aspect of his heritage is never mentioned. The only references to Jews in "Cradle Will Rock" are a few gratuitous (i.e., completely unnecessary) mentions of Jews as friends of the lucripetous, rich characters and as friends of fascists, and in the person of Sarandon's character -- a sycophantic Jewish woman enamored with Mussolini who helps plunder Italy's cultural heritage (literally for bags of American cash!) and who implores Diego Rivera to compromise his art and Marxist ideology for Rockefeller cash. The apparent suggestion in "Cradle Will Rock" that Jews were complicit in their own persecution in the 1930's for the sake of money is disgusting, morally repugnant and wholly unworthy of the talent involved in this project.

I am absolutely shocked and appalled at this film. Although I agree that the production values were better than average and the impressive all-star cast's acting was better than average (Caution: Sarandon's Italian accent and persona were of surprisingly low, street busking quality!), the film's radical Marxist and anti-Semitic messaging leave little option other than an extremely low score. Recommendation: Skip "Cradle Will Rock" unless you're a Marxist or neo-Nazi.
puffchunk
Super Reviewer
December 10, 2008
Huge cast made it fun to watch, along with the 30's atmosphere. Yet another example of how John and Joan Cusack cannot be apart in movies (much to my dismay). I had no idea the 30's had so much anti communist attacks. A neat piece of history. I especially liked Diego's painting.
jjnxn
Super Reviewer
½ August 19, 2007
painful, self indulgent exercise in tedium
Super Reviewer
January 23, 2008
Oh Tim, Tim Tim. Your storm of political correctness has resulted in this film that no one went to see...for good reason. It is probably one of the most boring additions to film lore. You can do better buddy.
Super Reviewer
May 18, 2012
I would have appreciated a measure of subtlety at some point, as there are moments of "symbolism" that reach laughable proportions with their obviousness. However, since this film still pretty successfully deals with the political and social power of theatre (which is a notion that is very dear to me) I still enjoy the film for the simple fact that it so strongly appeals to my own sensibilities and biases.
June 28, 2012
Decent enough film. I don't know why it is so overlooked or over-reacted to (negatively, often.) It's got a stellar cast and a bit of everything. That said, It's clearly Tim Robbins' weakest film as a director and nobody really stands out--apart from maybe Bill Murray.
March 13, 2012
No. This is NOT The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Tim Robbins' film is based on the actual events surrounding the WPA Federal Theater Project's production of The Cradle Will Rock by Marc Blitzstein, which was directed by Orson Welles and produced by John Houseman. The play was a pro-labor musical in the style Kurt Weil and Bertolt Brecht. During the heart of the Great Depression the production took place amid a growing Red Scare (communism), fascism, unions, and the increasing power of Hitler and Mussolini. The film also recounts the battle over a mural in Rockefeller Center between painter Diego Rivera and Nelson Rockefeller. While the film does takes liberties with many events, it still manages to present an accurate picture of the political and artistic forces at work during this period. Robbins manages to make an excellent commentary on the relationship between art, power and finance both then and now.

Best Quotes:
(Orson Welles to John Houseman) "Oh fine, Jack! You win, you've got the biggest creative dick, okay? "

Congressman: "You are quoting from this Marlowe. Is he a Communist?"
Hallie Flanagan: "I am very sorry. I was quoting from Christopher Marlowe."
Congressman: "Tell us who Marlowe is, so we can get the proper reference, because that is all we want to do."
Hallie Flanagan: "Put in the record that he was the greatest dramatist in the period immediately preceding Shakespeare."

Bertolt Brecht: "But where are the artists? Artists are the worst whores of all!"

Diego Rivera: "You're a piece of work. A Jewish fascist!"
Margherita Sarfatti: "And you're a rich communist!"
½ September 14, 2007
Between a 6/10 and 7/10, it succeeds far more often than not in delivering a credible, kaleidoscopic portrait of creative, and often famous, individuals.
½ January 15, 2011
Others Who Would Like to Stand

I studied the Federal Theater Project in college, as I tell everyone who will let me. I maintain that it is one of the best federal programs of the twentieth century, possibly in US history, and we'd all be a lot better off if they brought it back. It isn't as well known as a bunch of other Works Progress Administration programs. Even its sister program, the Federal Writers' Project, produced books of the narratives of former slaves. The Civilian Conservation Corps goes on in California. There's Social Security, of course. However, the FTP left a legacy most Americans will never know, and this film touches on it by showing us one of the program's most notable alumni. Those events do not entirely coincide with the other plots the movie introduces, not in time. Writer-director Tim Robbins has brought various events together into the same moment to encapsulate an image.

Marc Blitzstein (Hank Azaria) is one of thousands working for the FTP. He has written a musical (Wikipedia calls it an operetta) which speaks out against the practices of the wealthy and for the unions called [i]Cradle Will Rock[/i]. Hallie Flanagan (Cherry Jones), real-life FTP director, brings it to Orson Welles (Angus Macfadyen) and John Houseman (Cary Elwes). They are scheduled to put it on in an FTP theatre, and Aldo Silvano (John Tuturro) and Olive Stanton (Emily Watson) are cast as the leads. Across town, ventriloquist Tommy Crickshaw (Bill Murray) is supposed to be teaching no-talents Sid (Jack Black) and Larry (Kyle Gass) in what he is told is a program to prolong vaudeville, which he refuses to believe is dying. Hazel Huffman (Joan Cusack) testifies before Congress about the Communism and miscegenation in the Project; they will not listen to any of Hallie Flanagan's rebuttals. And, of course, Nelson Rockefeller (John Cusack) has hired Diego Rivera (Rubén Blades) to paint him a mural in the lobby of Rockefeller Center.

The invasion of what they persist in calling Ethiopia (from a period perspective, it's Abyssinia), the painting and subsequent destruction of [i]Man at the Crossroads[/i], and various other events took place in scattered times between about 1934 and 1938. What Robbins has done here is bring them together into a single concept. The performance of [i]The Cradle Will Rock[/i] and the jackhammering of the mural (which may, according to legend, have been taken down and hidden somewhere) are shown in parallel with a party hosted, I believe, by Rockefeller and attended by William Randolph Hearst (John Carpenter), Marion Davies (Gretchen Mol), and the fictional Gray Mathers (Philip Baker Hall). Marion is getting silently drunk (she's more a prop than a character), and rich people are dressed as pre-Revolutionary French aristocracy. Robbins intends us to focus on the contrast, so he compacts events to heighten it. Really, the only thing which seems out of place is the closing shot of modern-day Times Square.

It's easy to be snide in retrospect, of course. Joan Cusack's character yells at her coworkers that they all know she's right. The office is filled with Communists and miscegenation and anti-Fascists. Leaving aside whether or not there's anything wrong with that, the last two complaints at least would show her to be on the wrong side of history, one within ten years. Margherita Sarfatti (Susan Sarandon) claims that Mussolini--her lover--was not friends with Hitler, but it would not be very long before Italy was not safe for her anymore; she was Jewish, you see. Bill Murray's character cannot accept that vaudeville is dying. The failing of everyone in the movie, hero and villain, is shortsightedness. There are many, many jokes about the prospect of selling out; Orson Welles is asked how long it will be before he starts doing soap commercials. Though to be fair, he doesn't really seem concerned on the subject.

In the end, we are left with the remembrance of lost art. Left alone on the wall after the orgy of destruction is one lone syphilis bacterium. It turns out that Actors Equity only forbid the actors from performing [i]on stage[/i], so they couldn't have had sanctions brought against them for singing from the audience, right? (Alas, Wikipedia is silent on the subject, leaving only the mention that John Turturro's character was really Jewish.) There is a brief mention of [i]It Can't Happen Here[/i], brought to stages all over the country by the FTP. The film even includes the information that there was a Yiddish production. However, the project died a quick death, even before the final throes of vaudeville had passed away. There could never be an FTP today; there's too much debate over federal money for the arts as it is. But there is a certain longing evoked by the film. I mean, don't you want to see the all-black "Scottish Play" set in the Caribbean and directed by Orson Welles?
June 7, 2010
This is an aggressively left wing movie which succeeds in capturing a time when many artists were outright Communists, art had not yet be co-opted by Capitalism, and revolution was in the air. Not everything works, but the film succeeds with a superb ensemble cast and great character moments for everyone involved. Even the characters the filmmakers do not like are given depth and not simply relegated to being two-bit villains. The artists are not heroes either. One of the film's points is that many artists are whores. However, on the intellectual end of things I was troubled by two aspects. One is the use of Shakespeare's Richard III to defend an artist's right of expression, when Shakespeare wrote Richard III that way because he served a Tudor queen. Hardly a paradigm of free speech. This could have been explored within the subtext of the left's ambivalence towards government. Throughout the film the characters hate Capitalism, but they are wary of the government. It seems to me that this ambivalence about government is what undermines many on the left, while conservatives as of late are unabashed in rallying around big business. I wish this could have been included, but it is already a big film.
December 1, 2009
There's a lot going on, and Susan Sarandon's accent is terrible, but so many great performances and a great story about US and Theatre history.
November 19, 2009
Tim Robbins has made an absolutely wonderful film. Beautiful cinematography. The camera is choreographed beautifully through and around the actors and sets. All star cast. Historically accurate. Funny and touching. I loved it.
October 24, 2008
this film is tim robbins' directorial debut. it tells the story of the musical that would not be denied its first performance because of the downfall of the wpa. robbins' style owes a lot to altman in its weaving of many strands of narrative in to a whole. he runs the risk at times of losing control of his big tapestry of a movie.
½ February 14, 2009
It's certainly fun to watch familiar actors jump from around every corner. If this had been a play, I think I would have loved it. But although the story is interesting, and spotlights a forgotten era in American history, I don't think it works as a movie. The narrative just doesn't pull together tight enough.
July 2, 2008
MUST SEE for all left-wingers. Excellent cast, very smart. According to many reviews, people love it just for the direction and performances. So, you have that plus a fantastic little window into the struggle for federal theater.
July 4, 2008
With the amount of superstars acting in this movie it does at times become difficult to keep up. One might lose concentration in between, however, the movie is all in all superb, funny, highly entertaining... It's a great quality film from Tim Robbins.
Super Reviewer
April 29, 2007
EVERYONE is in this movie! It's long, but it's worth it. I used to think that theatre in the US should be more like some of the European countries and receive state support, but now that I've seen that the American government failed in the past I pray it never happens again. The irony of the US government on a witch hunt for communism in their own federal supported theaters is mind blowing. The hypocrisy. The double standards on both teams.

The variety of characters in this script was absolutely delectable. Some of these actors even surprised me and they were just golden.
½ January 29, 2008
after seeing the cast list i wondered how i could have missed such a lock for an amazing film. then i started watching and i realized it was all politics and no point. just a bunch of excellent actors being wasted talking about the same ideas you hear in a freshman into to world governments class. booooring.
January 17, 2008
Great movie that supports honesty in the arts and gives an interesting perspective of the 1930's. Written and directed by Tim Robbins (who is amazing) and staring talented actors like Cary Elwes, Hank Azaria, Joan and John Cusack, and Bill Murray. This is a show for those with an artistic soul.
Super Reviewer
½ April 15, 2016
In a word: "Disgusting". Not only is this film radically Marxist (even the Depression-era unions and FDR are depicted as selling out the workers as they march toward revolution!), but it's the most anti-Semitic film I ever recall seeing from a modern Hollywood production. Although the film's central hero, Marc Blitzstein, was of Jewish heritage as a matter of historical fact, that aspect of his heritage is never mentioned. The only references to Jews in "Cradle Will Rock" are a few gratuitous (i.e., completely unnecessary) mentions of Jews as friends of the lucripetous, rich characters and as friends of fascists, and in the person of Sarandon's character -- a sycophantic Jewish woman enamored with Mussolini who helps plunder Italy's cultural heritage (literally for bags of American cash!) and who implores Diego Rivera to compromise his art and Marxist ideology for Rockefeller cash. The apparent suggestion in "Cradle Will Rock" that Jews were complicit in their own persecution in the 1930's for the sake of money is disgusting, morally repugnant and wholly unworthy of the talent involved in this project.

I am absolutely shocked and appalled at this film. Although I agree that the production values were better than average and the impressive all-star cast's acting was better than average (Caution: Sarandon's Italian accent and persona were of surprisingly low, street busking quality!), the film's radical Marxist and anti-Semitic messaging leave little option other than an extremely low score. Recommendation: Skip "Cradle Will Rock" unless you're a Marxist or neo-Nazi.
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