We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

As the war progresses, many Americans may feel the need to wrest themselves away from CNN and perhaps take in a movie. This weekend, the less escapist of these folks can choose to see Head of State, a comedy that reflects a bit of reality by portraying a president who wants God to “bless America and no place else,” or they can wallow in The Guys, a near-90-minute “obituary” for eight fictional firefighters who died on 9/11. The film originated as a play based on journalist Anne Nelson’s experience writing funeral orations for a New York City fire captain. First staged in New York just weeks after the terrorist attacks, The Guys obviously served as a necessary catharsis: It ran for over a year and has since been produced elsewhere. Its incarnation as a film, however, feels greedy, self-indulgent, and, during a time in which the country has new atrocities to worry about, unnecessary. Certainly, seeing it with a group of strangers is a unique experience, especially for cynics who may automatically huff upon hearing a movie-theater sniffle. Indeed, it’s jarring to realize that the many sobs (which started not five minutes in at the screening I attended) are a result of real experience, not Sigourney Weaver’s pseudo-sorrow. To its credit, the cinematic Guys is a tastefully understated affair: The destruction is only hinted at by a grainy, time-stamped firehouse videotape that shows a flurry of papers raining on the street. Most of the film is conversation between Weaver’s journalist, Joan, and fire captain Nick (Anthony LaPaglia), who enlists Joan’s help in writing eulogies for a fraction of his lost men. We hear Nick’s stories about four of them—Nelson, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Jim Simpson, created composites of the real men she wrote about—and are privy to Joan’s thoughts as she processes the tragedy on her own. Weaver, the play’s original Joan, is serviceable if irritating: Her writerly affectation of holding an always-cocked pencil, phony wonderment at Nick’s stories, and finger-wagging to stop him from going further as she just…gets…this…down suggest condescension more than empathy. LaPaglia’s performance, however, is subtle perfection, a balance between regular-joe awkwardness about opening up to a stranger and good-guy devastation about the crew he loved. There’s no question that The Guys is, at times, riveting, and it was probably even more powerful onstage. But with only a portion of the profits going to the families of New York City firefighters and fresh lives being claimed in another part of the world, it’s difficult to discern whom this production is really for. —Tricia Olszewski