Author Gore Vidal’s work of “factual fiction”, Lincoln, is a monumental novel focusing upon the five years of the most dramatic of presidencies. Distilling nearly 700 pages of biographical detail into a three hour miniseries must have been daunting, but writer Ernest Kinoy was up to the task. It’s hard to judge direction in a piece that’s divided for commercial breaks, but under the hand of Lamont Johnson, the story remains cohesive. Casting Sam Waterston in the title role was a stroke of genius. Squint a bit, and you could be convinced he was Lincoln, lthough a surprisingly unwrinkled and unworn one. Waterston’s Lincoln is fully human, down to high pitched, twangy quality of Lincoln’s voice; he has turned in the most credible movie portrayal to date. Most of the supporting cast was also outstanding, with the singular exception of Mary Tyler Moore. Thin to the point of gauntness, and rigid in her self control, MTM was the visual antithesis of the real Mary Lincoln, who was short, heavy set, and given to unforgettable displays of temper and hysteria. While Moore’s performance hints at the manic depression that destroyed Mrs. Lincoln’s personality, and ultimately her life, she was badly miscast.
Recommended for anyone interested in Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.