The Post breakfast

A New Chapter 

Graham holds the true seat of power at the Post, yet is initially unsure of herself and steamrolled by the many men who make up the board of directors of the company she inherited after her husband committed suicide. By the end of the film, Graham has gained a sense of resolve, representing the same confidence and trust in the freedom of the press as Bradlee and his dogged staff of journalists. Streep, so gifted yet frequently playing more self-assured women, beautifully portrays Graham’s shift throughout. Hanks is billed second on the ads for The Post, and it makes perfect sense; his character’s arc is essentially learning to appreciate the necessity of having someone as gradually confident and fiercely loyal to the paper as Katharine Graham. Graham herself—through her eventual embrace of the power of the press, especially during controversial times—reflects the heroic stance within the film. If Hanks is America’s Dad, then his presence here is to further acknowledge that it’s time for men like him to cede the spotlight to more women.

Spielberg has spent a number of his last films wading through American history, from Lincoln to Bridge of Spies. With The Post, a film that he made this summer during the post-production process of his upcoming Ready Player One, he has created something with the same sense of propulsive urgency that presumably drove the filming process. The stakes in The Post could not be higher, not only because of how disturbingly relevant its content is to our present situation. That relevance is even more powerful as Hollywood continues to grapple with the pervasive sexual harassment occurring throughout the industry; The Post may not be about that topic directly, but there is a very real sense of Spielberg embracing what Bradlee embraces at the end about the importance of women like Kay Graham.

Perhaps it’s fitting that, even as Spielberg teamed up with Tom Hanks again, The Post represents a bit of a long-overdue passing of the torch from these two icons. In both Bridge of Spies and The Post, Hanks’ character is married, but the two wives are played by actresses (Amy Ryan and Sarah Paulson, respectively) whose talent vastly outpaces the material they’re given. Paulson, at least, gets a more loaded monologue in The Post, in which her character essentially reminds Bradlee of the sacrifices Graham makes on a daily basis, even for someone so rich and so powerful. It’s this moment that allows Bradlee to appreciate Graham innately, even as she appreciates the role he plays at her newspaper. This come-to-Jesus moment is both welcome and distinctive; you wonder how much it speaks to elder cinematic statesmen like Spielberg and Hanks, realizing how much the women in their industry sacrifice to get a seat at the table.

As much as he is known for making genre entertainments, terrifying us with sharks, dinosaurs, aliens, and more, Steven Spielberg is one of the more prominent auteurs of American history. As with his other collaborations with Tom Hanks, as well as other political pieces like Lincoln and Munich, there is an unerring sense throughout The Post that the characters within the story are aware that history is unfolding around them, that they are among its key players at this given moment. The most graceful, powerful image in the film, suggesting a sense of the weight and gravity of this historical flashpoint, comes near its close, focusing on Streep, not Hanks. Graham walks down the steps of a courthouse, head held high in the middle of a media scrum surrounded by war protesters. She walks past a series of young women, all protesters who look at her with awe and inspiration. The sense of unity across generations here may be an idealized fantasy, but a moving one nonetheless. And it displays an awareness from Spielberg about the layered timeliness of this story: it’s not just about the power of journalism. The Post is equally about the power women can wield when given the chance.

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