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Conventioneers (2005)

 -  Comedy  -  25 April 2005 (USA)
6.0
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Ratings: 6.0/10 from 174 users   Metascore: 60/100
Reviews: 7 user | 8 critic | 6 from Metacritic.com

At the 2004 Republican Nation Convention, love blooms between a Republican delegate and a Democrat protesting the event.

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Title: Conventioneers (2005)

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Massey's Father
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Himself
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Dylan Murtaugh (as Alek Friedman)
Matthew Mabe ...
David Massey
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Storyline

A young Republican man comes to New York for the first time to be a delegate in the Republican National Convention and falls into an unlikely affair with a girl he knew in college - a democrat who has returned to the city to protest the convention. Conventioneers is an ironic Romeo & Juliet story set against the real 2004 RNC that explores the consequences of the divide in American politics. Written by Mora Stephens

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Bittersweet Romance Amidst the 2004 NYC GOP Convention
28 May 2005 | by (Queens, NY) – See all my reviews

"Conventioneers" was one of at least two films inspired by "Medium Cool" screened at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival and the only one to recall the central relationship in that film.

The context and setting at the 2004 Republican convention in New York City are as intrinsic to the film's story as Fred Zinnemann's "The Search" in post-war Germany or Louis Malle's pre-casino "Atlantic City." Debut director Mora Stephens makes marvelous use of the flexibility of digital cameras to pick up the details of that hot and somewhat bizarre week in August as aliens landed in the cacophony of committed Kerry Country (and yes, I remember it well). She and co-writer/husband Joel Viertel, with the help of appealing actors, graft a convincing romance on top of these events, at least until the last ten seconds which unfortunately destroy much of the story's credibility.

It is believable that two bright young twenty-somethings renew a college friendship in those intense days in the Big Apple, though now she's a literally engaged but somewhat flighty Democratic protester and he's a married and devoted Republican delegate.

There are countless films of the big city gal converted to home spun values by the love of a country boy, from "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" to "The Electric Horseman" to "Sweet Home Alabama" and on, but Matthew Mabe does a convincingly intelligent Jimmy Stewart who seriously questions his assumptions and beliefs, and seeks answers to the identity crisis he undergoes away from home by falling in love with his opposite (the actors in the Q & A after the film said they spent considerable time developing the characters' back stories through improvisation and it shows). He comes across as honest about himself and his feelings while the city sophisticate seems duplicitous and hypocritical, but maybe it is because we learn more about his other relationships than we do about hers.

There's a particularly thoughtful scene at a faith-based group-run food pantry where he discusses issues with an activist nun, one of the few political scenes where I wasn't restless to get back to the hot romance already. While his fellow Republicans repetitively talk about just staying on target with their message, the protesters have endless meetings about tactics and theatrics for their demonstrations, though the filming of the final staged rally is effective.

The chance involvement of a member of the cast on the convention floor adds significant suspense and realism to the film (even if his choices don't quite come across as purely as the director claimed in the Q & A for that character's motivations as he seems a bit hen-pecked).

If the closing monologue (which caused the audience to gasp) is meant to make a point about the current administration's compassionate conservatives, as the camera pans to the U.S. Capitol, then it is spitefully out of balance with the rest of the film as much as it is out of character for the speaker or it's a new take on the feminist adage that all politics is personal.

The Barenaked Ladies' song "Conventioneers" from the Maroon CD is used amusingly.


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