As technology progresses political campaigns are increasingly filled with candid moments. Gaffes are known to hinder ambitious candidates (sometimes fatally) and forever haunt the victim. In Mitt Romney’s 2012 run, a covertly placed camera caught such a moment. Will a 90 minute documentary change voter perceptions about a politician who derided 47% of Americans as willfully dependent on federal assistance?
Mitt takes viewers back six years. The time is 2008 with a new presidential cycle on the horizon. Relative unknown Mitt Romney is seeking to establish a presence on the national scene. Though a former governor of Massachusetts, voters are still skeptical of his purported “flip-flopping” and open embrace of Mormonism. After a bitter contest, the Republican nomination is awarded to Arizona Senator John McCain. But, Romney notes, a following has started. Forward to 2012. Team Romney has won the nomination and is poised to take the White House from incumbent Barack Obama. While it is difficult to oust a sitting president, son Tagg Romney observes, the task is not impossible. After a strong performance in the debates and a hard fought campaign, the Romney team anxiously awaits election day results.
As a presentation of political leanings, Mitt is a success. Romney’s candidacy was a mirror image of Establishment Republicans – deregulated business and heavily subsidized military. Highlighted are examples of the presidential hopeful’s proficiency within the private sector and a critique of the current administration’s foreign policy. Instead of apocalyptic liberal rhetoric or sanctified raise from the Right, viewers are treated to a committed proponent of contemporary Republican values.
Further success for Mitt is evident in the marketing campaign. Pairing with Netflix, a service utilized primarily by young adults that side predominately liberal, is certainly risky. Yet, with the popularity of the self produced series House of Cards, Arrested Development, as well as other streaming television, why would subscribers fail to trust another company approved venture? We can only speculate viewership of Mitt, but left-leaning reviews – Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Salon – did little to raise appeal.
The missteps of Greg Whiteley’s Mitt are presented in the lack of purpose. The film is less the retribution of a media maligned candidate, but rather a soft-spoken political expose. Contemporary expectations of political documentary are primarily grounded in social issues or – what is probably the most emotionally attractive topic – conspiracy. The intimate portrait constructed in Mitt is reminiscent of Kennedy campaign films and 50’s P.S.A. ‘propaganda’. Sentimental journeys, but solely surface level. Though these devices do not necessarily poison a film. Character studies like Mitt remind viewers of the spectrum of personality within presidential hopefuls and though media fueled favorability is inherently biased – politics and the players are certainly still contemptible.
Available to watch now on Netflix Streaming.