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Atlas Shrugged: Part I is the most universally despised movie of 2011, but I liked it. Critics hate this adaptation of Ayn Rand’s 1957 cult novel for predictable ideological reasons, while Randites are embarrassed that their exalted capitalist system failed to pony up the munificent financing necessary to give Rand’s doorstop novel the blockbuster treatment they feel it deserves.
Instead of Angelina Jolie as heroine Dagny Taggart (as was rumored in 2008), this adaptation stars Taylor Schilling and other TV types. The film was rushed into principal photography on June 13, 2010, just two days before producer John Aglialoro’s 18-year option ran out.
I’ve never read Rand’s novel about a dystopian near-future in which the unappreciated capitalists who keep the world running go on strike. And from what my wife tells me of her attempt to grind through the book in college, it sounds pretty dire: “Rand lauds the competent, but she herself wasn’t a competent novelist.” Thus, I walked into the theater with negligible expectations, wondering whether it would be ethical to walk out early and still review it.
“Rand is famous for being anti-government, so it’s intriguing to see how much she despised corporate oligarchs equipped merely with deft lobbyists.”
To my surprise, I quite enjoyed Atlas Shrugged. Although the story is a hymn to the overdog, this low-budget movie has underdog appeal. I soon started to root for the plucky filmmakers to pull off their high-wire act of making a movie that’s distinctive—not distinguished, but still very 1957 in texture—without having anywhere near enough of the dollars that Rand idolized.