Stephen K. Bannon
Sarah Palin, Stephen K. Bannon
Stephen K. Bannon, a conservative documentarian primarily known for Generation Zero, is clearly a fan of former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
I don't have a problem with this, per se, but it's an important fact to understand before entering the theater to lay your eyes upon The Undefeated, a 119-minute faux documentary that serves primarily as a propaganda piece designed to smooth out the rough edges of Palin's erratic reputation and to, for the most part, gloss over those areas of Palin's personal, professional and political past that paints a far less flattering picture.
The Undefeated plays like a late night infomercial, sort of a "Sarah Wow," that is so poorly constructed it's difficult to imagine exactly what AMC Theatres saw in the production, other than news headlines, that convinced it to release the film into its theatres. There's nothing particularly wrong about a one-sided doc. Heck, Michael Moore has built a career on them. Moore, however, has an eye on the factual presentation of a film, the visual element of a film and, let's be honest, even the entertainment value of a film. While Bannon is clearly not aiming for pure entertainment here, so much of The Undefeated looks and feels completely staged that it's hard to take the director or Palin seriously.
The film kicks off with a barrage of Palin insults that are thrown at the screen with a fury. Yet, even with this scene Bannon fails to present the rage and the fury with any integrity. It's as if he's trying to paint all those who oppose Palin as madmen, and while there have been no doubt many angry and obscene things tossed Palin's way there have also been those who have opposed her with intelligent, thoughtful and well documented arguments against her beliefs, ideas and policies. From the insults, Bannon moves us into those who will sing Sarah's praises. They are presented in marvelously staged vignettes, often against a stunningly unattractive white backdrop with faux patriotic music playing in the background.
There are so many half-truths and non-truths in The Undefeated that it would have been comical if I hadn't been sitting there thinking that some easily influenced mind is sitting in the theatre whispering to themselves "Wow. I love her now." We Americans sure can be a gullible bunch.
The problem with The Undefeated isn't that it portrays Sarah Palin positively. Hey, to each their own. The problem with The Undefeated is that Bannon chooses to take a side then does a poor job of building the film around his argument. While he doesn't have to give credibility to those who oppose Palin, to completely ignore the flip side of the coin so often isn't just a cinematic choice. It's outright deception.
There are moments when The Undefeated works, and to his credit Bannon does have some success in painting Palin in a different and more palatable light. The simple truth, however, is that this is a film that Palin's supporters will appreciate on a far greater level than anyone else. Yet, with its hardcore bias and ignorance of the full spectrum of truth it's difficult to imagine that this film will win the potential presidential candidate any new supporters.
Neither insightful nor entertaining, The Undefeated's only true victory is in ever so slightly humanizing a woman who has become more of a media caricature than a politically relevant figure. Unintentionally funny and all too often ludicrously constructed, The Undefeated is ultimately a film for only the most hardcore Palin supporters.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic