I’ll be honest. I am more than highly anticipating the premiere Les Miserables with holiday season. But you guys, I don’t care what sort of miracles Wolverine and Maximus even attempt to pull off in Les Mis—Daniel Day-Lewis has this one in the Oscar bag for his performance in Lincoln.
Not only is he arguably one of the best actors of our generation (don’t bother arguing with me, though. I have seen In the Name of the Father; I know from what I speak.) but he didn’t just play Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s epic tale of the sixteenth president of the United States’ battle with the House of Representatives to pass the 13th amendment—he became Lincoln. In truth, the movie was filled with excellent performances, from Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens and Sally Field as Mary Lincoln to about twenty “Hey, I know that guy, what’s he from?“s—the cast is solid. But Lincoln, man, you never see the man playing him in the movie at all. You really believe—it’s Lincoln. End of story.
I have heard several times that when it comes to popular U.S. presidents, Honest Abe is up there in the top three. And likely, his popularity is due to his public life and persona, and possibly a wee bit for his hipster-before-hipster-was-cool look. Did you know that he was the first bearded president? And he did have that wild Republican hair under his stovepipe hats you know…
He was a hipster, yes, and, well, he seriously changed the face of the country as we know it. His election, the secession, the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, his re-election, the 13th amendment, and, obviously, his tragic assassination. So, I guess it’s not too difficult to understand why he ranks so high on the popularity scale.
But there is a part of Abraham Lincoln that’s not usually talked about in history books, or put on presidential polls. Abe Lincoln was a serious family man. I’d argue that Lincoln wonderfully paints a very accurate picture of the ins and outs and the dirty little political things that happen behind the scenes (by a super fat, super hilarious James Spader no less) in order to purchase votes to get amendments passed and of what war does to a nation and to a president. But the very best thing the movie paints is a portrait of Abraham Lincoln as a DAD.
This is where the brilliance lies in Lincoln, in the way it humanizes this larger than life figure. We see this incredible president in a meeting with his important movers and shakers while his young child sits on his lap. We see him get super distracted by a child running through the White House. We see a sleepy child climb on top of his famously long and lanky frame. We see a child who burns important documents while playing with toy soldiers; a wife who whines about how her husband manages his work/life balance; a teenaged son who wants desperately to go to war instead of being protected by his political figurehead father.
You buy it. You buy what this movie is about at its very core: Daniel Day-Lewis-as-president’s complete and total dadness.
Sure, he was instrumental in ending a war and beginning to patch a wounded nation back together, but I can guarantee you that when Ulysses S. Grant (played in perfection by Mad Men‘s Jared Harris) sits beside Lincoln at the end of the war and tells the president that he looks as if he has aged a decade in just a few short years, Honest Abe could easily blame his grey hairs and wrinkles on his children, too.