"Cold Copy"
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film ‘Cold Copy’ Review: Heavy-handed journalistic thriller is more vicious than print media

‘Cold Copy’ Review: Heavy-handed journalistic thriller is more vicious than print media

"Cold Copy"

It doesn’t exactly scream “nuance” when a movie begins with a character explicitly setting out their values ​​in a monologue. Anyone who wasn’t sure what they were up against before seeing ‘Cold Copy’ will have their confusion instantly cleared up when it opens with journalism student Mia Scott (Bel Powley) rattling off a bunch of buzzwords about speaking truth to power and tell stories that shape our society. If you’d written the entire soliloquy down and put it on a bag, it probably would have been one of the best-selling items of the 2017 holiday season in The New York Times Merchandise Store.

The weighty monologue is indicative of the larger problems hanging over “Cold Copy.” While the film never quite transitions into the Resistance-era morality play that the opening scene threatens us with, its exploration of personal ambition and the power dynamics in the workplace doesn’t get much better. Roxine Helberg’s directorial debut is a constant reminder that our world exists in complicated shades of gray, but the story she tells is painfully black and white.

On paper, Mia has all that student Should need to become a professional journalist. She is ambitious, curious, dedicated and deeply committed to the idea of ​​the Citizen Kane. Unfortunately, she has no contacts. As she watches her little nepo friends burst into elite institutions at a much faster rate than she does, the opportunity to take a class taught by cable news icon Diane Heger (Tracee Ellis Ross) feels like an opportunity to a life.

But his hopes of finding a caring mentor are quickly dashed when he meets Diane face-to-face. The “Night Report” host has become infamous for dishing up her powerful interview topics, and she’s no longer forgiving of her journalism students. She often berates Mia for what she sees as regurgitating the opinions of others rather than developing her own, and Mia’s attempts to work her way into a job quickly go nowhere.

Mia realizes that her final project – producing her own documentary segment on a topic of her choosing – is her last hope of impressing Diane, so she starts throwing her ethics to the wind. She decides to profile the teenage son of a recently deceased children’s author in an attempt to infiltrate her media-shy family and expose the gory details of her mother’s death.

Diane is far more interested in Mia’s ruthless pursuit of salacious details than her principles, and breaking the rules eventually lands Mia a coveted job as her assistant. The post gives Mia an opportunity to see the cutthroat world of cable news for who she really is, and Diane encourages her to break even more rules in her quest to tell a funny story. The Diane we see at work bears almost no resemblance to the intellectual persona she wears to class. Mia soon discovers that all the academic theory in the world can’t teach her the real lesson of the course: elite journalists do whatever it takes to survive.

Unfortunately, ‘Cold Copy’ adds nothing new to the time-honored film ‘twisted mentor pushes their brilliant student to the limits’ we have seen many times before. The attempts to combine “Whiplash” and “The Newsroom” unfold in a predictable pattern, and the writing recalls many of journalism’s worst cinematic tropes. (Exchanges like “That story was milked to death,” “Oh yeah? I remember your hands were all over those udders” are sadly common occurrences.) When Diane asks Mia to sign a contract that’s “just the legal stuff of base” without reading it, it’s hard to imagine anyone who’s ever seen a movie before not immediately guessing what’s going to happen.

What is especially depressing about “Cold Copy” is the fact that the current landscape of broadcast journalism has no shortage of cinematic angles. Anyone who has read Tim Alberta’s grip Profile of Chris Licht on The Atlantic can attest to the fact that the company is dealing with one existential crisis after another. The question of establishing journalistic credibility while chasing ratings in an attention economy continues to baffle the best minds in the industry, and that’s before accounting for the inevitable decline of linear television. With so many new journalism stories begging to be told, there’s simply no reason to retread the old ones so badly.

Grade: C-

“Cold Copy” premiered at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution in the United States.

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