The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl
Variously, we consider boredom. We endure it. We loll in it—at times not even minding it, really, for boredom is stasis and being still at the very least means not getting worse. What is funny about boredom is that it is not a verb: I bored it does not mean what it should. This review, as we write it, threatens to bore us—thus proving the difficulty in articulating a phenomenon without becoming complicit in its reproduction. In that way, boredom is also empire. Or family, its bland embrace like that of the fattest aunt you’ve ever had, welcoming you back to the biennially-organized fold. Or like certain people of power who occasionally feel compelled by some arcane force of convention to justify whatever action they have taken to whatever end, their glossy lips spewing signification like so many generic strawberry hard candies into the huge cut-glass simulacrum our polis hath become. Extract the gooey center of that ruddy, foil-wrapped confection, shove it into a Lincoln Continental, plop that Lincoln down in the middle of John Grisham’s pre-Firm morning fart, set the whole thing en flambeau with an “urban” soundtrack, and you’ve pretty much got The Lincoln Lawyer, a movie that gestures endlessly, and emptily, towards the thin, toned Cougar it could have been. Towards the just, verdant society it should have joined. Towards the dappled, tensile realism it might have made.
The previews gave any moves this movie might have entertained making on us entirely away. If you’ve heeded any of our recommendations, or warnings, these last few months, you can probably recount the plot of TLL better than William H. Macy, who takes his shoulder-length bob right out of the action half-way through, no doubt in search of more exciting fare. Matthew McConaughey drawls “witty remarks” and Marisa Tomei responds with rueful grins; Ryan Phillippe is beautiful but callous and uber-rich; there’s a black chauffeur, a wrongly-accused Latino, and some dark-haired, tattooed women of ill repute. Also a square-jawed state prosecutor. And an aging black judge. Oh! And John Leguizamo. We believe that’s America accounted for. A not-unpleasant boredom—the boredom of genre, and fulfillment—turns the tiny spit of TLL’s gamey plot. Though we managed to flatten any plot twist ourselves long before Matty McC could strut his way over to it, we didn’t really mind watching him flounce and emote while swigging back bourbon straight from the bottle, his face-sweat an entire character unto itself. And that is exactly the problem with contemporary poetry!