Empty Theaters, 0% Positive Reviews Greet Sarah Palin Documentary

I sat there alone for 20 minutes, at which point an usher stuck his head in the door, gave me a quizzical smile, and said, “How come you’re not watching Harry Potter?”

by S.T. VanAirsdale  

Customarily on Fridays, when a new movie reaches theaters over the howling, nose-pinching, and often very funny protests of the critical establishment, the saltiest of those responses are gathered here for your browsing pleasure. That’s given that there is enough of a sample, or that the stinker in question is intended for a broad enough audience for us to advise viewers of the open manhole in their path. And then… there’s the Sarah Palin documentary.

Since director Stephen K. Bannon’s The Undefeated was announced in May, nobody really expected the Palin-authorized effort to stretch much beyond hagiography. Which is fine: Love her or hate her, there’s no denying that Palin is a valuable brand who transcends politics, and the cultural galvanizing that The Undefeated might conduct in Palin’s name could have significant influence if done right — if, say, Bannon eschewed all the reactive fervor of Palin’s peers and defenders and instead went on the offensive about leadership and ideology. After all, a beatifying, glorified slideshow like An Inconvenient Truth worked not because right-wing bogeyman Al Gore had legions of fans to make it an Oscar-winning hit (he couldn’t even carry his home state, Tennessee, in the 2000 presidential election) or because it really burrowed under the skin of the former senator and vice president. It was because Gore maxed out his post-political goodwill for a specific cause that, again, like it or not, transcended politics.

Believe it or not, that’s the Sarah Palin movie that critics and pundits alike sought from The Undefeated. “Plainly, whatever her own blunders as she stumbled onto the national stage, the political portrait of her that emerged was too narrow,” wrote Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel in what nevertheless turned out to be a frustrated pan. “I swear I gave The Undefeated a chance, because who wants to writhe in agony for two hours?” wrote confirmed liberal David Edelstein in his own review at Vulture. “I hoped that director Stephen K. Bannon would show a side of Sarah Palin I’d never seen — I thought it would be so cool if I could give the movie a rave.” And that even followed right-leaning Kyle Smith’s brutal dismissal of the film last month in the NY Post as “so outlandishly partisan that it makes Richard Nixon look like Abraham Lincoln.” (Smith was later disinvited from seeing the reportedly re-edited version of the film opening today; representatives for the film cite not his review, but having allegedly broke a review embargo.)

So is it fair to expect or anticipate something so specific from Bannon and The Undefeated? Maybe, maybe not. Nevertheless, this week’s grave reactions to the film suggest not bias, but rather the consequences of Bannon and Co. not even trying.

The film currently boasts a 0 percent fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes , a sample presently comprising eight reviews in total and speckled with such varying concentrations of bile as:

· “Bannon depicts Palin’s opponents as comic-book villains […] all united by their “hateful obsession” with Tearing Sarah Down. This cartoonish version of real life is paired with a just-as-caricatured view of Palin, who in this retelling is entirely without blemish, physical or political, and incapable of missteps. (Even the film’s title is a whitewashing—she was, in fact, The Defeated as John McCain’s running mate.)” — Anna Merlan, Village Voice

· “Once you realize the film is just going to be a string of encomiums against a backdrop of frantically edited archival material in which few shots are allowed to stay onscreen longer than three seconds, it’s clear that no meaningful analysis of the woman’s career or political agenda will be forthcoming.” — Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

· “The first hour of The Undefeated, scrupulously attentive to Palin’s rise through state politics, is pretty rough going, a turgid primer in Alaska’s pipeline management and oil, gas and, yes, milk subsidies. The movie may tempt even the most ardent conservatives to emulate their idol’s tenure as Governor and walk out halfway through.” — Richard Corliss, Time

· “The film sticks to her political career, presumably with the thought that it will reinforce her accomplishments in the arena, but in the process, it perversely provides a reminder of that career’s limited scope. By the end of The Undefeated, Palin actually seems a more remote figure than at its start, a blank space onto which the film’s gallery of supporters are content to project their wishes.” — Alison Willmore, AV Club

Speaking of supporters, check out the curious rave currently atop conservative entertainment site Big Hollywood , where The Undefeated utterly invalidated author Ben Howe’s second-guessing about Palin — with one notable disclosure: “I consider the director of The Undefeated, Stephen Bannon, to be a friend of mine. He’s advised me in my own fledgling productions. I’ve interviewed him a handful of times on my podcast and we always talk for over an hour effortlessly.” Ah ha.

Meanwhile, not long after a distributor’s report that The Undefeated was packing them in at the AMC 10 in Grapevine, Texas, along came word that the GOP stronghold of Orange County was not proving quite as redoubtable ‘round midnight:

I sat there alone for 20 minutes, at which point an usher stuck his head in the door, gave me a quizzical smile, and said, “How come you’re not watching Harry Potter?” Then he left me by myself again, and without any good answer.

It isn’t strictly accurate to say that I sat through the whole movie alone. Just as the previews started, two young women walked in giggling together and took seats three rows behind me. Afraid that they’d ruined the only story I had at that point — What If Sarah Palin Starred in a Movie and No One Showed Up? — I hoped they’d at least oblige me with an interview, and so they did. […] “We looked online for the latest movie playing,” Jessie added. “But all the Harry Potters were sold out, and then we saw The Undeafeated. We don’t even actually know what we’re seeing.” […] I thought maybe I’d talk to them after the movie, and get the perspective of two people who went in with no expectations. But they only lasted 20 minutes before walking out.

And so the culture war continues — prophets, acolytes, haters, and ironists, converging from the fringes and mainstream underbrush for some stake in the Palin myth and maybe a few bucks if or when the public’s eyeballs stop rolling and actually focus in earnest. But I don’t know. It really was a lot more fun when all of this vexation simply meant having a go at talking animals. Presidential prospects, though? Not so much.



17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gem
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 10:36:01

    At least with a movie about McCain, we’d see some action, and then footage of he college educated and attractive children with great personalities. Why did Bannin do a documentary on the ex governor? He could have done something on almost anyone and had it be more interesting, and he’d have not had to glaze over so much!


    • Syrin
      Jul 15, 2011 @ 11:00:27

      It is quite curious to why any of these people are willing to actually lie or negate the truth for this person who clearly has nothing substantial to offer.


  2. Sally
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 11:08:14

    I’m chuckling over Bannon’s desire for EVERYONE to see his great masterpiece, ad to bring the kids. The idea that a man who supposedly never even met Sarah Palin would spend his own money making a love film for her is amazing. Then for him to insist that his one-sided fawning view of her means that those of us who have spent lots of time reading about her and trying to find the truth about her will suddenly be overwhelmed with joy that we were wrong; that Sarah is truly a wonderful mom, was the best governor ever on Earth, and really does have a servant’s heart is stupefying. The man is dumber (and a lot poorer) than the grifter.


    • nswfm
      Jul 15, 2011 @ 11:43:49

      Semaphore flags are spelling out that “America Hates Sarah Palin.”

      Get it, Bannon? Or are you still masturbating to pictures of her and her daughters?


    • WakeUpAmerica
      Jul 15, 2011 @ 20:45:18

      How did Bannon get all those family pictures and film if Sarah didn’t cooperate? I call bullshit.


  3. Syrin
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 11:18:35

    However she’s written about and touted as someone who transcends politics. Someone care to explain to me …How? Why? What do they think she is, if not a politician?
    Is her record as a mother, wife , public offical really all that and a bag of pretzels? NO! What would cause her to transcends politics is having content and discussing meaningful solutions in other areas of life, and being held accountable for that content! This is NOT the case! This distrubed woman can somehow transcends politics without having to actually accomplish a damn thing!


  4. WakeUpAmerica
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 11:35:11

    Oh, it has been a great summer so far with all things concerning Palins! ROFLMAO!


  5. climber357
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 11:52:17

    ¨…a blank space onto which the film’s gallery of supporters are content to project their wishes.¨ This is very true. The sarah they support is an imaginary ideal mother/wife/sister/daughter that they wish existed. And sarah is willing to play along, scrambling around trying to be who she thinks they want her to be for the moment.

    When I look at sarah I see only the blank space. Sometimes I see a wig and the presence or absence of a padded bra.


  6. WakeUpAmerica
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 13:33:07

    Bristol’s Leno interview is a hoot too! She tries to imitate Mommy Dearest by slowly stroking her thigh throughout the interview. Bleh!! So obvious.


  7. HudsonElizabeth
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 14:55:44

    Well, at least one thing has happened — finally the msm is writing about Palin and not in a good way, the msm movie critics at least. That is a start, isn’t it?


  8. Kate
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 16:08:46

    Red State has a ridiculously, allegedly “unbiased” review of the film, however, it’s preceded by a statement from the reviewer about his admiration for Bannon and what great friends they are. Of course, he says that had nothing to do with what he considered to be a very revealing film about Palin, letting us know we all need to see it and then we’ll also understand why the media went to such pains to bring her down. There they go again with the ludicrous statement about those who don’t admire & worship Palin are obviously either afraid of or jealous of her, perhaps, both!

    I can’t imagine anyone paying for this at the $1 movies, let alone at a regularly priced showing unless they are looking for something that will put them to sleep. If the latter is the case, this is definitely the movie for you.


  9. newmeximan
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 19:31:18

    Would it come as a surprise that Victory Films is associated/funded by Citizens United?

    Consider this a practice run for further propaganda work by Bannon, who has admitted he has studied the work of Stalin and Hitler’s number one propaganda makers.

    We are truly living in the age of American fascism. It arrived cloaked in the flag and carrying the Bible.. Now, if all the real Christians would publicly reject this nightmare.


  10. E_Montagu
    Jul 17, 2011 @ 12:12:15

    For all of you who say that “Sarah is a blank slate”, here’s a way to educate yourselves: Remember those 24,196 of Sarah’s personal emails which the media demanded and which they said would prove — prove at last! — that Sarah really is as stupid and wicked as they’ve been telling you for the past three years?

    Once they were released, the media took the unprecedented step of asking READERS and VIEWERS to help them search for the proof of Sarah’s stupidity and wickedness.

    And then … silence.

    So, if you want to know more about Sarah — if you’re curious to learn if you’ve been lied to these past three years — why not look into the reasons why the media now won’t discuss these 24,196 emails? That’s just, you know, if you want to know the truth.


    • Gem
      Jul 18, 2011 @ 15:17:47

      How much were we to discuss what was already known? How often do you talk about the academically stupid but socially brilliant coniving cheerleader from high school? What would you do if you found her diary and read it? Ho hum. Yawn. It would confirm what you suspected.

      Why isn’t the teaparty discussing the brilliant thoughtfulness contained in those emails? Why aren’t we all kicking ourselves over having lost a brilliant economic strategist? There was nothing there! She wasn’t revealed as witty, thoughtful, or smart out of more than 20,000 emails!


  11. karen503
    Jul 17, 2011 @ 15:47:18

    They’ve been discussed by the only responsible people involved in the dissemination of real, factual information — national and Palin-centric/critical blogs. No one trusts the MSM any more; they’re as kiss-ass as the partisan media.

    I don’t EXPECT the MSM to discuss the e-mails, now that no overt illegalities were found — and after 3 years of redacting, did anyone really expect anything indictable to be found?

    However, those e-mail have bolstered the well-researched suspicion that Palin is not the biological mother of the DS toddler she claims (not one e-mail about visits to doctor, putting appointments on schedule, etc.), and separately verified everything Frank Bailey has asserted in his “Blind Allegiance” book.


  12. DebinOH
    Jul 17, 2011 @ 16:18:09

    E Montagu – If we wanted to know the truth why were so many of the e-mails redacted. The first batch of e-mails put out a couple of years ago showed that Todd sure was a large part of her governorship. Why that wasn’t discussed too much remains a mystery to me.

    I think that the truth is in the pudding of how she ran or did not run Wasilla. Not what I would call a good mayor.

    Not only that but all I needed to know about Sarah Palin came out of her own mouth. The lies, the hypocrisy and everything else. No one else had to tell me those facts it was plain as the nose on your face. Unless you were for the bridge before you were against the bridge or built a hockey arena on land you didn’t even own yet. Then I could see just why you would need to be told that she is a vapid narcissistic dumb excuse of a human being. Didn’t need the media to tell me that.


  13. moinkslinger
    Jul 18, 2011 @ 11:41:59

    When they were doing the limited viewing of “The Undefeated,” they first offered to send me a free ticket. I didn’t respond and a view dates later they emailed me that I could have three free tickets. Again, I didn’t respond and another email offered me five free tickets. I knew at that time, the demand for this show did not exist.


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