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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Netflix debuts quality documentary on Mitt Romney

Published: February 14, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

Netflix has transformed the way media has been released with production of original series like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.” Their latest “Netflix exclusive” tackles a different medium—documentaries. Following the campaign of Mitt Romney through both the 2008 Republican primaries and his 2012 Presidential run, “Mitt” provides a comprehensive review of a politician and his family dealing with the stress of the media, debates and simply trying to get his point across.

It starts off at a very interesting place, an Arby’s, on the day Romney announced his candidacy for president in 2008. A relatively unknown candidate to the other patrons at the restaurant and the hotel staff that the filmmaker interviewed, Mitt Romney becomes more humanized and draws pity. If you were completely unaware that Romney has over $200 million in assets, he would certainly take the place of David versus John McCain’s Goliath. During the first act of the documentary, the footage of Romney in cheap hotel rooms and campaign buses shows discussions with both his campaign team and his family on how to market his image, make his points and sway people to vote for him instead of McCain.

With his family disappointed that their patriarch was not successful, Romney becomes dismayed by the fact that he is “next in line” as the Republican nominee and will be pulled back into the political sphere after admitting that he has become tired from the whole process. Once again, the viewer is led to sympathize with the candidate who admits his downfall in the public eye and acknowledges that the polls are clear that he is not the favorite. His wife and sons, two of whom actively work on the campaign and often appear in front of the camera, are much less gracious in defeat.

Yet the narrative shifts as the documentary turns to focus on the 2012 presidential election. Backed with confidence from a successful primary season, Romney and his team look to really make moves. With extensive footage of the lead-ups and reviews of both debates, Mitt appears robotic, playing to the image created by the new media. At one point while walking down a hallway toward a debate with his wife, they walk stride-in-stride, yet don’t hold each other’s hand. With the camera focused on their arms awkwardly dangling next to each other, it’s assumed that they will grasp each other’s hand since they have been married for over 40 years. Perhaps its due to their religion, Mormonism, that he neglected to show any sort of affection towards his wife while on camera, instead choosing to be chivalrous towards her as if he were her boss.

Callbacks to the political issues and discussions from the campaign are frequent, and it is interesting to be reminded of now somewhat trivial talking points and then see his campaign’s immediate reaction, such as the infamous fallacy he said during the second presidential debate about the president not claiming that Benghazi was a terrorist attack in the Rose Garden the day after the incident. Instead of trying to defend their father’s words, the Romney sons immediately try to determine who briefed him on that. The honesty came across as sincere, yet his wife, at this point in the film, did not seem as informed. Making the same talking points as you would expect from a suburban housewife, Ann Romney questioned why people can’t see how Obama is hurting business, completely forgetting that the Democrat has helped the country on other issues.

The documentary is incredibly forthright with the Romneys’ life during the campaign and creates a new perspective on the political process. With the seamless transition between poll numbers in Ohio and arguing about the food court at a LaGuardia terminal, a different light is cast on a campaign. You can feel the stress on the candidate as he tries so desperately to get someone’s vote. The complete sadness from the campaign staff as Romney thanks them for their service and admits their defeat makes you realize that people put their whole lives into this operation and end up usually with nothing to show for it.

As for Netflix, it has created yet another high-quality product for their library as they try to revolutionize television and film across the world.