Opening with the publishing of his book Lying Liars etc, this film follows the liberal spokesman and comedian Al Franken as he sets up a liberal radio station, goes to the Republican convention and considers a run for Senate. Aside from seeing his book in the shops and watching some of his SNL stuff, I don't really know how he fits into the political landscape in the US. I don'...
Opening with the publishing of his book Lying Liars etc, this film follows the liberal spokesman and comedian Al Franken as he sets up a liberal radio station, goes to the Republican convention and considers a run for Senate. Aside from seeing his book in the shops and watching some of his SNL stuff, I don't really know how he fits into the political landscape in the US. I don't think I'm alone in not completely "getting" how the US works in this regard. In the UK we do have media that falls into certain political groups (eg the Daily Mail has always been a Tory paper) but we don't really have anything like the split like they do in the US.
So I wasn't sure how I would cope with a film that very much involves looking at this split and focuses on a man who is very much on the liberal extreme in the same way that others are on the conservative extreme. However I actually found it very easy to follow because there isn't much more to it than us following Franken on the road. Others have said that it feels like a 90 minute campaign advert and they are bang on because if you are a liberal then the film does very much present a passionate man who is fighting his corner. That plus the fact that he has announced his plans to run for Senate suggests that if the film was not done for this reason then it certainly hasn't hurt.
The film is reasonably balanced in so much as it can be. It (the film) doesn't set out after any republicans but of course, by following Franken and giving him the lion's share of time then it was never going to be a documentary that looks evenly at both sides of the argument. I did enjoy the film and found it both interesting and funny but the nature of the politics in it was what rather put me off. Now I accept that this is the US rather than just this film but I still found the rather polarising nature of both Franken and his conservative foils on Fox News etc hard to swallow. Now satirists and comedians do mock and I have no problem with John Stewart's approach to this; however with Franken we see him meeting with these people and engaging in political debate with them and it is not always pretty. At times he simply lays out the lies and spin of the opposition (as indeed he says he does at one point) and he does it well but other times we see him scoring easy points in people's faces and lowering himself to the level of slanging matches with conservative commentators and journalists. I know it is the nature of US politics for this but I do not see his approach being better than theirs – even if I am closer to his political viewpoint than to theirs. He talks about unifying but he seems keener to split and just see who gets the most votes. I have not done a great job of describing this, but it is an unpleasant part of the film because it is depressing to see both ends of the spectrum just fighting rather than debating.
Overall though, an entertaining film. Probably not even worth a look if you are a conservative, because the film belongs to Franken. At times he comes across as clear minded but at other times he is no better than some of those he mocks – this is the bad side of the film but in fairness this aspect is interesting even as it is unfortunate.