Hi documentary club, thanks for coming back to discuss Mitt (or, if you haven't seen it yet, you can watch it here) — a funny little film that feels at once hugely important and totally irrelevant: after all, the guy lost, right?
But director Greg Whiteley's unflinchingly honest portrayal of one-time Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, which follows his early presidential ambitions back in 2006 through his eventual defeat in the 2012 election, has surprisingly little to do with politics — the details of his campaign take a backseat to the human drama and tension faced by the candidate and his family.
Erstwhile Romney supporters likely saw much in this footage that reinforces their sense of the candidate as a twinkly-eyed family man with sturdy American values, while those who found his policies and beliefs loathsome (hi!) probably won't change their opinions to that end. And yet, no matter how bad Romney might have been for America, it's tough not to feel a pang of something in Mitt, a film that portrays its subjects with so much compassion and dignity it's like a punch to the stomach.
Opening with footage of Romney trying to determine how best to concede to Barack Obama in the wake of the 2012 election, then flashing back to his first inklings of presidential ambition in 2006, the film is mercifully narration-free and feels less concerned with proving any point than with a naturalistic portrayal of the politician throughout his highs and lows.
This stylistic choice raises a lot of questions, as does much of what's found in the footage. Let's talk about a few things that came to mind!
Possible Discussion Topics:
1. Was the moment when Romney decides to concede humanizing or humiliating?
2. Anyone else surprised to learn that Romney is, firstly, a Coen brothers fan, and secondly someone who sits around with his kids listening to David Sedaris on This American Life?
3. Romney's friendly, avuncular charm seems to come and go — in particular, he seemed so pugnacious when prepping for the 2008 Republican debate. Discuss.
4. The warmth and intimacy between Romney and his wife Ann from 2006 through 2008 seemed to have cooled significantly by the 2012 election cycle; she seemed more poised and also less likable (with the exception of the sequence with the horses). Was that a strategic public image choice on her part or something that happened naturally?
5. Likewise, the tension between Mitt and Ann en route to the first presidential debate struck me as heartbreaking. Anyone else?
6. If some of this footage had been available to the public prior to the election, would people have responded more favorably to Romney? Would he have had a better shot at winning?
What else occurred to you while watching Mitt? Let's talk it out in the comments.
Documentary Club is a recurring feature in which we watch and discuss the finest documentaries available to stream on Netflix. Join in the fun, because it's easier than winning (or losing) a race for the presidency.