Friday, July 1, 2011 , Updated 9:54 a.m., July 15, 2011
UPDATED: Sarah Palin documentary The Undefeated opens today
Can we expect to hear chants of "Run, Sarah, Run!" in our presidential election future?
You'll need a high tolerance for Sarah Palin's public service history to sit through the almost two hour run-time of The Undefeated, Stephen K. Bannon's exhaustive drill-down on the short (so far!) but eventful political career of the conservative Alaskan politician-cum-pundit (and long-suffering mainstream media punching bag).
That being said, anyone looking to expand their knowledge of Palin's political background will walk out of the theater with a comprehensive overview — from the first stirrings of her interest in serving Alaskans (the Exxon Valdez oil spill played a key role) to her decision to leave the governor's office before serving out the remainder of her term in 2009. I certainly learned a thing or three!
The promoters of the documentary, Victory Film Group, staged a preview screening of the movie Thursday night in all ten locations where the film will open to the public on July 15. Invitations were sent out to leaders of organizations (according to the RSVP page), plus — given the fact that the PegNews editorial office received one — select media outlets.
I arrived at the AMC Grapevine Mills 30 and navigated my way to theater 20, in front of which two representatives were checking names off the RSVP list, handing attendees a sign-in sheet, and welcoming folks to the show. The 96-seat theater ended up being almost full by the time the movie started; the event organizer I quizzed on the way out afterwards told me there were six no-shows. (The attendees appeared to be uniformly Anglo, for what that observation's worth.)
The sign-in sheet included a pledge section, providing a means for each attending organizational leader to write in the number of tickets they thought they might be able to account for, in terms of getting people to show up for the forthcoming theatrical run. As the film ended, a representative suggested we let our friends know about the film in order to pump up attendance. All pretty reasonable and SOP.
Most people kept their seats after the film to participate in an open-forum discussion. With other film reviews still on my Friday plate, I departed the scene at that point.
The nice lady I sat next to during the film had driven in from Greenville, Texas; as we were waiting for the film to start, booming noises could be heard coming from one of the adjacent auditoriums.
"That sound effect's not part of our movie," she quipped. "Unless that's the 'drill, baby, drill' part!"
Natalie Nichols introduced the film, stating that it was a "rough, unfinished cut," but expressing her opinion that it looked just great the way it was. And with that, the lights dimmed and the show began.
Stephen K. Bannon's filmmaking approach here is straightforward storytelling style, with talking head interviews with Palin associates comprising the meat of the material. He spices up the narrative with sweeping scenes of the Alaskan countryside, Palin baby pictures (she was a cute kid!), and occasional tongue-in-cheek stock footage visuals presented as a means of illustrating a point. (Think: dollar bills being flushed down the toilet; slick suited, sunglasses-wearing corporate executive types debarking from private jets; an anonymous politician cringing in fear as he answers the phone, presumably in receipt of news that "Whistleblower" Palin's on his case.)
Palin herself contributes a good bit of narration to the film, which also features video footage contemporary with her career as Wasilla mayor (two terms), and her demonstrably successful stint as Alaska's reform-minded, consensus-building, limited-government-advocating governor, prior to the McCain team's V.P. invitation in August 2008.
As her many sweeping legislative successes are being extolled, in fact, I wondered to myself why in heaven's name she would have chosen to resign the governorship upon her presidential ticket's defeat. To its credit, the film goes on to address that point with an explanation involving the spate of ethics complaints filed against her (which, even if false, she was constrained to defend against out of her own pocket). As a consequence of some kind of Republican establishment backlash, it's implied, her efforts to foster passage of even the most mundane of legislative measures during this period were undermined.
So she resigned for the sake of the state, the way the movie tells it.
The visuals are enhanced by dramatic orchestral background scoring (credit David Cebert), inspirational in tone as Palin's successes are being extolled, and then ominous as we hear about the inimical forces operating to take her down.
The last segment of the film chronicles Palin's fundamental influence on the Tea Party movement, and documents her ongoing central role at some of its rallies. It's at this point where the film turns downright evangelical in tone, inspiring our particular audience to break out in chants of "Run, Sarah, Run!" as we approached the end credits.
The Undefeated is a subject-friendly biopic with considerable depth; in promoting it, the producers make no bones about their enthusiastic support of Palin and her politics. Taken on these terms, the film succeeds fairly well. Were the filmmakers to ask me my opinion on how to improve the final cut (not bloody likely!), here's what I'd suggest:
Edit it down to 90 minutes; cut out three or four of the reverential commentaries about how marvelously she nailed her V.P. acceptance speech during the Republican National Convention. (A little of that goes a long way.)
Remove the apparently overlooked verbal gaffe in which Palin can be heard to state that her legislative agenda can be summed up "in three words: the natural gas pipeline."
It's shaping up to be an interesting presidential election year, and it could get a lot more interesting if Sarah Palin decided to throw her bouffant hairdo into the ring.
First of all, let me say that the promoters behind The Undefeated (2011 version) are nothing if not tenacious.
Since sneaking a peak at the movie a couple of weeks ago, I've received one phone call and two email solicitations encouraging me to get out there and sell tickets to the show, promote it by word of mouth, and email all my friends and acquaintances, letting them know that — if they love America — it's really quite essential for them to see this film.
All this after I clearly printed on the attendance form with which I was presented at the film screening (in nice block lettering) that I was representing the press. And thereby, it logically follows, potentially neutral on the topic of loving America — in the sense of drinking the Palin Kool Aid, at least.
Even after I explained to the nice woman who called me on the phone that I was a journalist, she reiterated that it would be great if I could commit to contacting x-number of associates in order to fill up the theater for screenings of the Palin political biopic.
One of the follow-up emails included a table spelling out the reward structure for those who rack up advance ticket sales. See the table below; I found the nomenclature for the various sales levels to be quite charming.
God bless 'em, they're converted, and their cause is (obviously) a just one.
Anyway, the movie opens its run today at the AMC Grapevine.
For those who love America. In the right way.