It premiered at Sundance and goes on Netflix Streaming today. It’s by Gregg Whiteley, a Mormon himself, who previously worked on films such as Resolved and New York Doll. Apparently Mitt Romney himself wanted nothing to do with the film, but Ann (wife) and Tagg (son) pressured him to do it; it actually chronicles both the 2008 campaign and the 2012 campaign, purportedly beginning around Christmas 2006. I have no idea why I said ‘purportedly’ in the previous sentence, as if the film has something to hide. Because his strategy people mostly avoided the cameras, the film ends up as more a personal portrait of what it’s like for a family to go through a Presidential campaign (two). I think I’m getting sick right now, so I’ll be watching this later today for sure. (By the way, various readings have now indicated that it begins in late 2006, with a family meeting regarding whether they should run for the 2008 nomination.)
As you’d expect, the Internet has a lot to say on this flick. Let’s troll for a bit.
The Romneys we see here are alien creatures visiting a reality-TV planet; none of their responses or actions seem quite like all the other humans who have allowed a camera to follow their daily lives. Perhaps because they can never be comfortable with a camera, even if it sticks around for six years, the Romney Bunch seethes with the friendliest sort of outrage and exasperation; they dread every last minute of the race, but it’s a fun and upbeat sort of dread. They’d slouch and moan and chain-smoke if only they knew how. Instead, you never saw such hale and optimistic expressions of pain; even their gallows humor lacks a sharp blade.
And then there’s the point in the documentary when Romney and one of his sons are debating how the press corps (and the American people) view him. Romney says, “People will know me, they’ll know what I stand for, the flipping Mormon.” His son replies, “the guy that’ll say or do anything to get elected.” Romney replies: “Yeah, yeah, the flipping side, in which case I think I’m a flawed candidate. I can’t fake it.”
At first glance, one would think Romney understands that his flaw is that he can’t connect with the average American family. He even states later in the movie, “I started off with money and education,” and goes on to say he attended both Harvard Business and Law Schools. Word to Mr. Romney: Most Americans didn’t “start” with any of those things. Later, when talking about starting a small business, Romney says “[Democrats] don’t know how hard it is, they don’t know, they have not been in a setting where you’re going to make it, where you’ve got a little business and people trying to make it.”
KELLY: One of the things that made a little bit of news in your film is there is a moment that you capture where they’re talking, it is when Mitt Romney’s realizing that he has lost the election in 2012. And there is a discussion about whether they should call Karl Rove on Fox News and tell him to stand down on the challenge he now infamously made about whether we had called Ohio too soon. And our viewers will remember, we can just show some — we don’t need to play the sound, but show them some of the video of what happened that night. Do you remember that moment? Was that something that was being discussed by team Romney and Mr. Rove that night, you know, whether Karl should continue that challenge?
WHITLEY: I was not privy to what Karl Rove was saying, I was only getting those reports as they would come into the hotel suite where Mitt was. Why I can tell you was, it was excruciating to be there and realize as they were — I just sort of assumed that they would have reports, the family would have some sort of access that would supersede what we would look at the cable news network. That’s not true, they follow election results at certain point, the same way the rest of America does.
The movie subtly advances at least a few theories, one of which was put forth during the campaign to much scoffing in the media. It goes something like this: He never even wanted to run, but a sense of duty — to God and country — compelled him to enter the race because only his unique combination of talent and experience could save America from a disastrous course. “Our desires in doing this are pure,” intones one of Mitt’s daughters-in-law during an intense session of group prayer, which comes off as both declaration and fervent wish.
Kind of interesting to think, historically, how Mitt Romney will be viewed in high school history textbooks and Wikipedia 100 years from now. Many (including Jon Stewart) believe the proper term is “historical footnote.” Depending on what happens with the 2016/2020/2024 elections, we may ultimately look back on 2012 as the year that Republicans finally realized they can’t win without embracing some type of minority agenda — which leads into what’s happening with Marco Rubio right now. (I hope someone is following around Chris Christie at this exact moment, so that we can get a doc in 2018 on his life from ‘Bridgegate’ through his run for the Presidency.) I think this doc (Mitt) will be interesting primarily because it seems he is a legitimate family man — that wasn’t, by any means, an act — and he almost doesn’t understand how to turn that into something America can broadly relate to.
Here’s a little behind the scenes from Mitt, and here are a couple more reviews via Twitter:
Get excited, guys. It should be a fun ride.