Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Alfred Molina
Have I Seen it Before: No, but there are times when I feel like I lived it.
Did I Like It: I wanted to. At least we got that pretty rad poster of Hart’s campaign bus driving off a cliff. Of course, that is not the poster I include in this post, wherein Hugh Jackman has the look of a man who has just sharted, but I digress.
A political film is going to have a hard time avoiding making a political point about the time they are released. Even All The President’s Men sheds light (at the time of its release) about recent events. This movie certainly can’t make any claim to the latter goal, as most people would view the 1988 election, the Democratic Primary that year, and Gary Hart himself as a footnote in political history.
When the film tries to make its statement about the here and now, things get truly muddled, indeed. Is it a #metoo commentary, wherein the shoddy treatment of Donna Rice (Sara Paxton) by the powerful yet clueless Hart (Jackman)? Maybe. There are certainly scenes that would approach that kind of a statement. Are we supposed to look down on the morally compromised journalists as they make their slow embrace of tabloid methods? Again, maybe, but at this particular moment in history, lay off journalists, man, they’re having a rough enough time as it is. Are we supposed to take Hart’s side and lament that this jungle environment ensures that the best and brightest won’t take to public life? Again, maybe, but the point feels like weak sauce in a world that has pointedly moved on from heralding Bill Clinton as any kind of mistreated hero.
I just wish the movie would pick a lane, and that said lane wouldn’t be quite as tone deaf.
It should also bear mentioning that I may be among the worst audiences for a political film, as I keep trying to pick apart the history. Several minor anachronisms run throughout, but the most glaring example comes from right at the beginning. The opening scene takes place at the height of the 1984 Democratic National Convention, with Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro ascending to their eventual status as America’s greatest sacrificial lambs. Hart soberly assesses Mondale’s chances in the fall, and resolves that he will be the one to bring the Democratic Party back from the brink on the next go around.
We cut to nearly a year before the Iowa caucuses, and the title on screen says “Four Years Later.” It wasn’t four years later. It was barely three years later. That’s just math, Jason Reitman. It doesn’t take a lot to jar me out of believing a political narrative, but even that is pretty egregious.
Shut up, Mac? Yeah, you bet. I’ll get right on that.