In “The Post,” a new movie about The Washington Post’s behind-the-scenes battle to publish the Pentagon Papers, feminism and the First Amendment take center stage, according to an undated copy of the film’s script received by The Post.
Starring Oscar winners Tom Hanks as executive editor Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as the paper’s newly minted publisher Katharine Graham, the plot is like an awkward buddy dramedy but before the two main characters actually become buddies. Bradlee is the brusque Scotch-drinking newsman to Graham’s exceedingly proper but unsure CEO.
At one point, Bradlee, frustrated that the New York Times scooped The Post and that Graham remains hesitant to publish the Pentagon Papers, asks his boss, “If you don’t believe you should be running it, why the hell should I?” The draft of the script is unclear, but that appears to be the running theme throughout the film: Graham stepping into her own shoes as The Post’s decider-in-chief without the specter of her predecessors in the job, who just so happen to be her late father, Eugene Meyer, and her late husband, Phil Graham.
Graham, the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, is not so much an ice queen in the script as a reluctant monarch, a stark contrast to the last publishing executive Streep played to great acclaim: Miranda Priestly.
Pursed lips. That’s about all that Streep’s Priestly, the actress’s interpretation of Vogue editor Anna Wintour in “The Devil Wears Prada,” and Graham have in common. Sure, they’re both female bosses, running major publications and fighting boardrooms stuffed with men to do it, but Graham’s pursed lips signal a woman raised “in a different time” trying to keep her opinions to herself; Priestly’s were a prelude to a cutting comment. The two roles couldn’t be more distinct, although the end game is the same.
As with every coming-of-age drama, Graham eventually finds her footing with several a-ha! moments in the script where she gets to espouse the virtues of both running a business and staying on mission. In the end she confidently decides the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive in a movie that seems from the script to be as much about fighting the good First Amendment fight as it is about feminism.
Keywords: Meryl Streep, Katharine Graham, The Post, movie, pentagon papers