Directed by Greg Whitely
For an intimate and illuminative look at the ups and downs of a presidential campaign, nothing is more enriching than director Greg Whitely’s feature-length documentary “Mitt.” Whitely, a Mormon himself, followed Mitt and the Romney clan during his disappointing 2008 Republican primary loss and, four years later, his failed presidential bid. But this isn’t about politics. Sure, it’s about Mitt the politician, but it’s more about Mitt the man. No matter where you stand politically, it’s hard not to like a guy after you’ve seen him as normal as you see Mitt in “Mitt.”
Words like “eye-opening” can’t begin to describe the educational journey you take when you watch this documentary. Is some of the footage irrelevant to the campaign narrative being told? Yes. But each minute tells an even bigger story, about Mitt’s now-crystal-clear persona. I get it now. I feel like I know Mitt as a person. He’s more than just his platform (thankfully!). “Mitt” is an honest and sincere portrait of the man, the Mitt, the legend. But it also doesn’t shy away from the mistakes. The 47% comment, the disastrous second debate, the writing of the concession speech (which you see in a terrific few scenes). It’s a picture of a flawed man. An imperfect man. But as one supporter says, “He’s human.”
Given much attention is Romney’s father, whom he clearly admires very much. George Romney was born poor in Mexico, never got a college education, worked until he became the chief executive at American Motors Corporation, and then became governor of Michigan. As Mitt explains, a serious bid for president would never have been possible without his father. Thanks to him, Mitt was born wealthy, which afforded him the opportunity to graduate from Harvard and make a seamless move into business-ownership and politics. And Mitt passes the love on to his own five sons, who guide him through his campaigns. He spends more camera time asking his sons for advice than talking to his campaign manager, who is barely shown. It’s certainly a family affair. I will say, however, that I was hoping to see something, anything, about Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential nominee. But unfortunately, you only see Ryan for a few minutes toward the end of the story.
Netflix is on a roll. Last quarter, Netflix saw more Americans subscribe to its streaming service than any quarter in the past three years. Netflix original series like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” are obviously incredible, but now it has distributed a feature-length documentary. And it, too, is incredible.
After watching “Mitt” and seeing Romney’s journey through the 2008 and 2012 elections, you learn that political losses sometimes have very little to do with the voters, but more with the attitudes of the people running. It’s not always positive, but it’s at all times positively enlightening. If I see a more interesting documentary the rest of the year, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. In fact, “Mitt” may be the first must-see film of 2014.