Susan Granger’s review of “Saving Lincoln” (Pictures From the Fridge)
When Abraham Lincoln (Tom Amandes) was elected President, he was accompanied from Illinois to Washington, D.C. by his banjo-playing, joke-telling former law partner, Ward Hill Lamon (Lea Coco), a Southerner who became his self-appointed bodyguard after the first assassination attempt in 1861. A U.S. Marshal, Lamon foiled repeated audacious attempts on the life of the 16th President during the darkest hours of the Civil War, including a close call when a bullet passed through his stovepipe hat. It was only because Lamon was dispatched on a Reconstruction mission to Richmond, Virginia, that he was not in attendance on April 14, 1865, on the fateful night at Ford’s Theater when John Wilkes Booth killed the President. Ironically, that was the same date on which Lincoln created the U.S. Secret Service.
Known primarily for his 2005 Passover comedy, “When Do We Eat?,” Chilean filmmaker Salvador Litvak co-wrote this unique, micro-budget documentary with his wife/collaborator, Nina Davidovich, and shot it a single green stage, compositing-in vintage photographs from that era, utilizing techniques from painting, photography, animation, sterocopy and VFX, creating 3D environments in an artificial style that he calls CineCollage. To his credit, Litvak unearths odd, interesting historical tidbits – like Lincoln’s participation in a séance with his wife (Penelope Ann Miller) to communicate with their dead son Willie and Lincoln’s order to the military band to play the Southern anthem “Dixie” as he led an unexpected sing-a-long during the White House celebration of the end of the Civil War.
As for the performances, they’re wooden – at best. In the same season when Daniel Day-Lewis embodied The Great Emancipator in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” Tom Amandes’ rendition is prosaic. Known primarily for playing affable doctors on TV series like “Everwood” and “Parenthood,” Amandes is a featherweight, forced and floundering in a heavyweight arena. The only exception is Amandes’ thoughtful, inventive delivery of The Gettysburg Address, utilizing a low-key, conversational tone.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Saving Lincoln” is a simulated 5, a curious, caricatured Lincoln log that’s recommended primarily for history-buffs.