'Roseanne for President!': Film Review

IFC Films
As third party presidential candidates go, Barr isn't even one of the weirdest, and that's saying something.

Roseanne Barr executive produced this documentary chronicling her attempt to become the Green Party presidential candidate in 2012.

Much like the unlikely presidential campaign it chronicles, Roseanne for President! never quite decides whether it wants to be serious or funny. Documenting the comedian's attempt to become the 2012 Green Party nominee, Eric Weinrib's film is mostly a curiosity piece that will best be appreciated by Barr's ardent fans.

The film makes the case that Barr was indeed genuinely sincere in her desire to run, if only to call attention to her very liberal positions including a single-payer healthcare system, extensive financial reform (she eventually softened her assertion that Wall Street bankers should be guillotined) and, perhaps most importantly, the legalization of marijuana. During the proceedings she's frequently seen puffing away on the joints that she receives by medical prescription.

"I want this movie to be my version of Apocalypse Now," Barr declares early on in this film for which she served as executive producer. Things never get quite that darkly surreal, but she's certainly a strange sort of politician, one who mostly forgoes personal appearances to conduct her campaign via Skype from her home in Hawaii that she shares with her mellow, sax-playing boyfriend. She explains that she's using technology rather than traveling because it's "green," before sheepishly adding, "I hate to be around people, and touch them or any of that."

It's likely that her campaign against the far more disciplined and traditional candidate Joan Stein, a doctor and environmentalist, wouldn't have gotten as far as it did if not for the hard-working efforts of her indefatigable campaign manager, Farheen Hakeem, a burqa-wearing Muslim who stands in for her candidate at such events as a parade in which she rides a bike toting a promotional banner.

The film also includes background information on Barr's life and career, from her Jewish upbringing in Salt Lake City to the head injuries she suffered in a car crash at age 16 that resulted in her spending eight months in a mental institution to the successful stand-up career that led to her groundbreaking hit sitcom that ran from 1988-1997. Clips are shown from the series and various live and television appearances, including her debut on The Tonight Show, as well as her notorious and poorly received (to put it mildly) off-key rendition of The National Anthem at a San Diego Padres baseball game in 1990.

Admiring commentary is provided by the likes of Rosie O'Donnell, Tom Smothers, Michael Moore and Sandra Bernhard, as well as Barr's siblings and mother. But the most prominent voice throughout, not surprisingly, is Barr's, whose vitriolic, scabrously funny commentary about politics seems positively mild-mannered compared to the current presidential campaign.

Distributor: Sundance Selects
Director: Eric Weinrib
Producers: Eric Weinrib, James Moore
Executive producer: Roseanne Barr
Director of photography: Jayme Roy
Editors: Tyler H. Walk, Melanie Vi Levy

Not rated, 96 minutes

 

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