Presidential elections and campaigns are filled with sound and fury like few things are in this world. Image and marketing are at the core of the campaign as much as issues and debates are, some would say even more so. A debate on the issues of the day is more about stature and emotion as it is about ideas and politics. When it comes to election day a lot of our preconceived notions are formed by two opposing sides, staking opposite claims about one another, and we are to judge them based on those facts alone. The truth about each candidate and what they stand for can easily get buried among the noise. That’s where Mitt, a documentary from Netflix, wants to break through. A camera crew followed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney around as he ran in 2008 and 2012 in hopes of becoming President of the United States.
It’s no secret that Mitt Romney lost in 2012 and wasn’t the republican nominee in 2008. But what compels a man to run for president and what does it look like to run an eventual failure of a campaign? Were all those attacks against Romney accurate or is he really some misunderstood candidate whose character was lost beneath the loud noises of politics?
In 2008 Romney was one of many trying to run for President as former President Bush was reaching his term limits and both political parties were trying to make their cases why they should be running the country. We watch as Romney begins to understand he is one within a large field and how quickly Senator John Mccain is becoming their front runner. His family is often by his side during the entire campaign with his sons often around to give their advice and consolation about the goings on of the campaign. It’s an interesting viewpoint to see a man trying to become the leader of the free world getting advice from his family, alone, in a hotel room.
The eventual loss in 2008 was supposed to be the last time. That was until 2012 came around and Romney went from an unknown name to a republican brand many could recognize and support. He was a successful businessman, a person of faith, and seemingly the only man who might have a chance to beat the now incumbent President Obama. Just like with the 2008 election we see the insides of the Romney campaign through some of the worst days. His dismissive 47% speech is handled as a political setback than a real issue. His debates with the President are almost always seen as wins by his family despite the glaring mistake during his second debate.
Mitt often shows how easily a man can convince himself, whether it’s true or not, that he is who he thinks he is. Romney often comes across as a capable and loving father, as a faithful and guiding hand in the campaign, but it never confronts the real issues. Politics stay at the water’s edge for the documentary which both serves and stifles the film. We are only shown the human cost of these campaigns, turning our issues into arguments rather than discussions, and the inability, even from the candidate himself, to change and shape these problems.
The film is interesting to watch from an arm’s length. Showing the harsh reality of what it means to run for president. While it makes Romney into a more likable man it ignores the issues which could have made him a more likable president. Mitt makes the same mistakes it sometimes reveals the campaign made, ignoring the political elephants in the room and hoping the voters and viewers do too. What it does show is a humble, flawed candidate, trying to be himself in a political world more than willing to define him before he can even define himself.
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