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Sujit R. Varma
I was disappointed by this. Oh, it is great fun goofing on any politician, the more smarmy and sanctimonious the better. But I can get political goofs by the dump truck load from elsewhere. What I expected was something as gently incisive as, say, "Doonesbury," but with the cinematic skills we know Sayles has. Something as gentle and sharp as "tanner on Tanner."
We have three threads here. The first is the depiction of the system, the handlers and supporters that "make" a president. We all know how it is; many politicians admit it and nearly all journalists report on it. There isn't a shred of newness in this thread, and surely not out of Dreyfuss.
There's a second component having to do with the story that wraps the thing. Now here is where I expected some art. What we end up with a single big corporation as the bad guy, no, beyond that a single corporate man. Then we see how his misdeeds unravel a bit. Sure, we have payoffs, bribery, rampant disregard for the environment and a cover-up.
But see. The thing to make fun of is how some reduce big complex issues to simple narratives. How they take a million threads of a complex tapestry with inscrutable hues and patterns and reduce it to a paper towel with flag patterns. So why do the same thing when satirizing them? Why? It isn't as if there aren't people in the film world incapable of doing this? Or was it just a rush job?
Most people let all that slip because Chris Cooper's version is too delicious. Here's the problem with this: its not disturbing enough. The thing with the target's speech is how he needs to have his mouth work, but his mind cannot produce the coherent thought fast enough, so it looks for stored phrases and tries to evaluate them for appropriateness on the fly. This gives both odd pauses and sometimes goofy leaps in concepts and metaphors.
Listen to Cooper and pay attention to the leaps. Both are fabricated for dramatic effect. The pauses are regular. They're not even, but they have multiples: pause, twice as long three times as long. And they have a rhythm that if you listen makes a sort of sense.
Now look at the linguistic leaps. They have the same patterns, regular semantic distances. That's because we as viewers have to be in on the joke. We know he will jump and precisely how far. We just don't know the direction. See, humor is in the unexpected and in order for it to work, you need to set expectations.
Now, dear reader, listen to the target. He is not creating something as art, he is just living. What you will find is a well-studied artifact of a man whose cognitive centers have been damaged by cocaine saturation. There is no regularity. Pauses are random. The semantic distances are random. That's the whole point. This is what you find in substance abusers. Always. It is not dumbness but drug damage.
Oddly the National Institutes of Health had a great research program on this because all sorts of conditions like Alzheimers can be diagnosed by measuring these speech effects. But once the link was make to cocaine users, the program was terminated. Now that would make a good movie, Huh?
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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