A gentler, more befuddled Michael Moore, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman shambles through this documentary about the events leading up to George W. Bush's 2000 election, the conclusion of arguably the most contentious, bitterly divisive presidential races of the 20th century, the first whose outcome was decided by the Supreme Court. Hoffman, director Donovan Leitch (actor-model-musician and son of '60s pop idol Donovan) and his crew cover both the Democratic and the Republican National Conventions, as well as ancillary events. They interview professional politicos ranging from liberals Ralph Nader, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and openly gay Congressman Barney Frank to conservatives Newt Gingrich and Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, eliciting the usual practiced responses. Hoffman talks to politically active celebrities, controversial academic Noam Chomsky and professional gadflies Bill Maher and, yes, Michael Moore. But he also seeks out a cross-section of people in their teens and 20s who, if not the impassioned firebrands who burned so brightly during the 1960s, give the lie to the notion that their generation is uniformly apathetic and invested in shallow consumer culture. Leitch and Hoffman seek out the Ruckus Society, which teaches activist groups how to organize effective protests and civil actions, and document the Los Angeles "Shadow Convention," held within spitting distance of L.A.'s luxurious downtown Staples Center, which hosted the Democratic National Convention. The Shadow Convention offered debates, forums and panels for groups with diverse, non-mainstream political and social goals. Leitch's crew also captures disturbing footage of protests in the streets of Philadelphia, Seattle (during the World Trade Organization summit) and Los Angeles of local police behaving exactly like their counterparts 35 years earlier, treating peaceful, if noisy, demonstrators like rioting mobs. The question driving the film is straightforward. What is the future of democracy when a substantial portion of an entire generation believes there's no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties, that there are no meaningful alternative parties, that corporate interests buy and sell elected officials and that everyone in public office lies? Leitch's previous foray into political documentary, the sloppy, anarchic THE LAST PARTY (1992) was overwhelmed by the juvenile antics of its host, Robert Downey Jr. Hoffman establishes a more sober tone, though the new film isn't without its lighter moments. The sequence in which the crew acquires press credentials to the Republican National Convention by helping organizers desperate to book a rock band (they deliver Leitch's scruffy pals the Interpreters USSA) is priceless.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: NR
- Review: A gentler, more befuddled Michael Moore, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman shambles through this documentary about the events leading up to George W. Bush's 2000 election, the conclusion of arguably the most contentious, bitterly divisive presidential races of… (more)