P.J.O’Rourke reviews Atlas Shrugged: The Movie (Part 1)

P.J. O’Rourke is a fan of Ayn Rand:

The woman is a force.  But, let us not forget, she’s a force for good.  Millions of people have read “Atlas Shrugged” and been brought around to common sense, never mind that the author and her characters don’t exhibit much of it. Ayn Rand, perhaps better than anyone in the 20thcentury, understood that the individual self-seeking we call an evil actually stands in noble contrast to the real evil of self-seeking collectives.  (A rather Randian sentence.)

He appears to be not so much a fan of Atlas Shrugged, her seminal novel (which, I admit, I’ve never been able to bring myself to read – though it is on my bookshelf – thanks, Kristen). And he really hates “Atlas Shrugged – Part 1,” the new movie. He notes, for instance, that “the movie’s title carries the explicit threat of a sequel.”

I’ve always been a fan of good bad movies (Road House, anyone?), and this one might qualify. But I’m also a fan of good reviews of bad movies, and O’Rourke delivers just that here.

Upright railroad-heiress heroine Dagny Taggart and upright steel-magnate hero Hank Rearden are played with a great deal of uprightness (and one brief interlude of horizontality) by Taylor Schilling and Grant Bowler.  They indicate that everything they say is important by not using contractions. John Galt, the shadowy genius who’s convincing the people who carry the world on their shoulders to go out on strike, is played, as far as I can tell, by a raincoat.

The rest of the movie’s acting is borrowed from “Dallas,” although the absence of Larry Hagman’s skill at subtly underplaying villainous roles is to be regretted. Staging and action owe a debt to “Dynasty”—except, on “Dynasty,” there usually was action.

Mindful of the zealous nature of Randians, O’Rourke makes a half-hearted pretense of not criticizing the movie, but he’s not fooling anyone:

But I will not pan “Atlas Shrugged.” I don’t have the guts.  If you associate with Randians—and I do—saying anything critical about Ayn Rand is almost as scary as saying anything critical to Ayn Rand.  What’s more, given how protective Randians are of Rand, I’m not sure she’s dead.

The review is fun to read, but as is often the case with O’Rourke, there’s a serious point hiding in there:

An update is needed, and not just because train buffs, New Deal economics and the miracle of the Bessemer converter are inexplicable to people under 50, not to mention boring.  The anti-individualist enemies that Ayn Rand battled are still the enemy, but they’ve shifted their line of attack.  Political collectivists are no longer much interested in taking things away from the wealthy and creative. Even the most left-wing politicians worship wealth creation—as the political-action-committee collection plate is passed.  Partners at Goldman Sachs go forth with their billions.  Steve Jobs walks on water. Jay-Z and Beyoncé are rich enough to buy God. Progressive Robin Hoods have turned their attention to robbing ordinary individuals.  It’s the plain folks, not a Taggart/Rearden elite, whose prospects and opportunities are stolen by corrupt school systems, health-care rationing, public employee union extortions, carbon-emissions payola and deficit-debt burden graft.  Today’s collectivists are going after malefactors of moderate means.

I don’t agree with a lot of what O’Rourke says – here or elsewhere – but he sure has fun saying it.

As for the movie, it opens April 15. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

3 Responses to P.J.O’Rourke reviews Atlas Shrugged: The Movie (Part 1)

  1. Kristen says:

    I fear for the movie version only because it cannot possibly do justice to a book that complex, even with the best actors, screenwriters and directors, and it may turn people who would truly enjoy reading the book (ahem? Dan?) off from the story AND the message. As you know, I love the book, but it is an ideal, and not a possibility, and many of the "Randians" don't get that. A lot of the Randians I encounter, primarily through Facebook fan pages, have a lot of anger that they take out on the world in Rand's name, and I disagree with both their approach and their basic belief that everyone else has to change. But this is a better conversation to be had AFTER you read the book!!

  2. C. Wright says:

    Mr. Radmacher,

    I am not the sharpest tack in the tray, but even this witless sexagenarian has read Atlas Shrugged. Rand’s repeated assault on ones cranium with her philosophies, especially John Galt’s sixty page (?) monotonous monologue, makes Atlas Shrugged a good story ruined. However, I do recommend that you pull on your Wellingtons and wade through Rand’s loquacious cow pies because buried in the muck is a very good story and some thought provoking ideas that will stoke up your gray matter and get your keyboard smoking.

  3. Joe Mostowey says:

    REad the book Dan, and see the simplistic nature of Rand's Charactors. They are definitely 2 dimensional, sort of like comic book heros and villians.

    I dragged myself through it 30 years ago, and decided that her style wasn't my cup of tea.

    I thought it a hoot when it was aired a while back that Annie was on the public dole:

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