Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Bob Roberts (1992)

Time for a change of pace after all that blood and guts, and as it's US election time, a great chance to stay up late and watch this political satire whilst votes are counted and swing-states determined.

Directed by and starring famous Hollywood liberal Tim Robbins, Bob Roberts is a mockumentary in the style of This is Spinal Tap with hints of Don't Look Back and Tanner '88. It follows a Pennsylvanian political campaign fought between Republican Bob Roberts (played by Robbins) and Democrat Brickley Paiste (played with humility by the late, great Gore Vidal). The prize is a place in the US Senate House. The film within the film is "directed" by British documentary producer Terry Manchester (character actor Brian Murray), who provides an objective sounding board for the political battleground in front of him.

Coming across as a folk hero for the far right, musician Roberts courts his public with rousing country rock concerts and staged public appearances. His self-penned songs rip into 1960s idealism, tearing them to shreds whilst also targeting drug users and the "lazy" (i.e. unemployed). His policies are very much back to basics, full of idealistic soundbites that promise wealth and a return to family values. However it becomes obvious as the story progresses that it's the poor and the minorities, both ethnic and sexual, whose livelihoods are threatened by Roberts' politics. Working behind the scenes is a team of wheelers, dealers and spin doctors who keep Roberts' campaign on the road and moving in the right direction. Needless to say, dirty tricks are never off the table.

Central to the strength of Roberts' popularity is campaign manager Chet MacGregor (an oily performance by David Lynch favourite Ray Wise) and the shady finances of campaign chairman Lukas Hart III (Alan Rickman, scary). But as Hart's unsavoury background is exposed to the public, so is Roberts' success and integrity threatened, and there are far left factions determined to expose Roberts, Hart and the campaign as fraudulent.

I see a lot of comparisons with Tim Robbins' Bob Roberts and the man that is Mitt Romney. Both seek to court left of centre votes with promises that are made to be broken. Both look like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. Both use religion as major tools of their trade to garner the votes of the American heartland. And they both spell absolute disaster and Armageddon should they reach power. It's men like Roberts that have stopped many of Obama's policies going through the Senate, which is one of the reasons why it seems not much has been acheived since he came to power.

By the time you read this, it's more than likely that America will have decided who they want to reside in The White House for the next term. At the time of writing it's neck and neck but looking like Obama is going to hold on to his position. I sincerely hope he does because should Romney get in then, with extreme right-wing politics both sides of the Atlantic, we could all be in for a long cold winter...

This next song is dedicated to YOU!