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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Review of the Mitt Romney Netflix Documentary

Last night I finally had the opportunity to take advantage of some of the insomnia that I've been experiencing as of late by watching the Netflix original documentary, "Mitt," which highlights the ups and downs of the Mitt Romney presidential campaigns of 2008 and 2012.

The documentary, which chronicles the personal moments of the Romney circle, attempts to provide audiences with a "rare intimate look" into how Romney and his family balanced their political aspirations with their personal convictions.  We see Mitt and family kneeling together in prayer, thanking God for the blessings they have been given.  We see Mitt and family huddled together in various hotel rooms, critiquing speeches and preparing for debates.  We see Mitt and family dealing with the realities of lost campaigns.  In short, we see Mitt and family face the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

But the main point is this: we see MITT AND FAMILY!

If one thing is clear from this documentary, it is the fact that Mitt Romney is a family man.  For good or for bad, Mitt placed a tremendous amount of emphasis on what his family thought and felt about his running for president, along with their advise during the campaign.  There is a very real and genuine bond between family members that doesn't feel forced or simply for show.  The genuine love and devotion of the Romney family is, without question, the most striking aspect (at least for me) of this documentary.

Second only to his devotion to family, it is the authenticity of Mitt Romney the man that comes across most in this film.  The public image that is Mitt Romney is replete with examples of him as a "flip-flopper" and a "detached white man" who doesn't understand the needs of the masses. Whether or not you believe these stereotypes is irrelevant because what this documentary enforces is the fact that Mitt Romney really is who he says he is.  I was struck by the fact that Mitt's public character was, in many respects, identical to his private persona.  Love him or hate him, Mitt Romney seems to genuinely believe what he said during his campaigns.  To some, this will serve as proof that Romney is a man of good character; for others it is another reason to be glad he lost the election.

And though Mitt Romney seems to genuinely believe and stand by his moral and political opinions, he doesn't do so without a sense of reservation.  The documentary presents a number of occasions in which Mitt and family doubt their chances of winning, and even seem happy at the prospect of returning to "normal life."  On at least two occasions in the film, Mitt refers to himself as a "flawed candidate" who "cannot win."  In addition, Mitt and family seem to lack the killer mentality that is so necessary in a national campaign.  They do not support the "win at all costs" mentality and even seem mortified when they discover the back door dealings of other candidates (when former Florida Governor Charlie Crist breaks his word and endorses John McCain you see the Romney family's collective stomach begin to churn at the alleged betrayal).

The film also highlights the fact that Mitt Romney and family were both impressed and intimidated of Senator/President Barack Obama.  Time and time again, Romney comments on how Obama had "changed the game" and that he was "clearly a step ahead of everyone else."  When John McCain insists that the strategy to beating Obama would be to highlight his inexperience with foreign policy, Romney accurately decried such a strategy as a surefire way to lose.  During the 2012 campaign, Romney and family seem awestruck at the prospect of sharing the debate stage with the President, even though they sincerely believed that Obama's policies were bad for America.  

Through all of the campaigning, speeches, debates, etc., Mitt reveals a man who is torn between two worlds: his desire to serve his country in its highest office v. his desire to serve his family and his God. This introspective tug-o-war creates both confidence and hesitance for the Romney campaign. They detest Obama's politics but cannot help but admire and even be intimidated of the President. They see the problems within the GOP but cannot break free of them.  As a result, Mitt Romney finds himself in the middle of a war he cannot win.

The film concludes with the Romney family, huddled together in a hotel room, once again facing the realities of another lost campaign.  They do so with remarkable poise and even gratitude.  One can only wonder if a part of them was glad they had lost the election.  Mitt and Ann Romney then return home, together, refusing the aid of Secret Service agents.  The final scene also feels as though Mitt and Ann had never campaigned in the first place, as they sit next to one another in their living room, reflecting on what had transpired and on the uncertainty that lies ahead.

In short, the Netflix documentary, Mitt is unlikely to change anyone's opinion of the man.  If you loved him before, you will love him even more.  If you disliked Mitt during the campaign, you will probably find more reasons to continue disliking him.  But what the film does do is prove once and for all that Mitt Romney really is who he says he is.  Love him or hate him, Mitt Romney is not a pretender.  He's a genuine family man who loves his God, his country, his heritage and his posterity.  Mitt Romney was probably right when he called himself a "flawed candidate" but I believe he is also an honorable man, and this is coming from somebody who wasn't a fan of the "flawed candidate."

My final grade for Netflix's Mitt: B+.  It is worth the time to watch it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the film and your summary tell us one of the reasons Romney lost to a president that had a disastrous first term and was not very popular (certainly not unpopular). Obama would have been hard to beat for anyone, but he was vulnerable and Romney was simply not committed enough to winning. He was not as ruthless as Obama, who was incredibly ruthless in his goals.

I find their fear of Obama odd. Obama is an incredible politician but an awful president (he is good at winning elections but an extremely poor leader). Romney seems to have genuinely confused the two. Interestingly, I think Romney is probably the opposite - he is a poor politician but appears to be a very capable leader. But in democracy - you need to be first and foremost a politician.