Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Guess what? He HASN'T faded into obscurity: MITT, the documentary, hits the streaming circuit

Watching the new documentary, MITT -- all about how a certain former governor of Massachusetts who campaigned for Presi-dent, first in the 2008 Republican primary, where he lost, and then again in 2012, where he won, but then lost the election -- will probably not change a single mind regarding whether the outcome of that election was deserved and appreciated. What it does--pretty well, too--is humanize a man, who, from all we could tell at the time, appeared to be a lying (oh, sorry: make that "flip-flopping"), conniving and uber-entitled fellow.

Filmmaker Greg Whiteley, shown at right, is a Mormon, just like Mitt Romney and his family, and so, one suspects, was able to become a much more trusted source and guide to enable the Romney clan to relax and just be them-selves so that he could bring to the screen the correct semblance of jus' plain folk that a movie like this requires. Mr. Whiteley, also the director of New York Doll and the debate documentary, Resolved, does it. In his hands, the family seems like a really nice bunch of people. Convincingly, too. They appear to be a close-knit group who care about and rely on each other for everything from encouragement and honesty to a shoulder (a number of them actually) to lean or cry on.

The family goes through the hell of campaigning during that first round in 2008, and then says "never again" to any further seeking of the Presidency. But, what do you know? Here they all are back again for more in 2012. But given the idiocy of the current Republican base, Romney must flip-flop so incredibly much during this campaign that he finally could not be taken seriously except among lame-brained Republican Party diehards -- who, in the words of someone-or-other, "would vote for a monkey for President, if the party nominated one."

One of the more telling moments in the movie comes as one of Romney's sons talks honestly about how difficult it is play the game that must be played in campaigning in which you say what people want to hear, or tell you to say, rather than what you believe. We also hear much more from the Romney men than we do from the women. Whether this is due to the latent misogynism of the Latter Day Saints, or to the fact the Mitt has only sons and so the daughters are all in-laws, I can't say for sure. But I would wager that the answer is: both.

Because 2012 is near enough for all but infant-aged children to be able to recall, there is no suspense in the movie. In fact, it begins with Mitt asking, "What do you say in a concession speech?" and then tracks back to 2006 and works its way up to that sad question once again.

The Romney political philosophy is kept to a minimum and shared with us via the most obvious and benign information. Even then, any remotely progressive person will want to shout back at the screen a few times, as blather about the evil of "taxing the small businessman" is offered, with nary a remark about the wealthy or of those huge corporations that manage to avoid paying their fare share -- or sometimes any taxes at all.

Although Romney's now infamous taped remarks about the country's needy 47 per cent is mentioned, the chance to ask the candidate more about this is of course passed up.

One of the things that makes the movie so pleasurable is watching how this large family reacts to whatever comes along. It is rare in any political movie, especially those that deal with campaigns, not to have the screen filmed with pundits, point men, the usual political suspects and other hangers-on. Here instead it's the family who doubles as advisers, strate-gists and all the rest. This makes for a more enjoyable experience, movie-wise: charming, fun and probably beneficial to the campaign, as well.

Mitt, from the Netflix organization, made its streaming debut this past Friday, January 24, and can be seen now, exclusively via that service.

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