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It must be hard enough running for president without also having to contend with snarky filmmakers, but such is the lot facing current candidates, especially of the Republican variety. Arriving several years after Sacha Baron Cohen managed the dubious feat of making a fool out of a hapless Ron Paul in Borat is Janeane From Des Moines, Grace Lee’s mockumentary featuring a fictitious Iowa housewife who manages to get up close and personal with several of the GOP contenders during the Iowa caucuses.
Played by co-screenwriter Jane Edith Wilson, the titular character is a 47-year-old part-time home healthcare aide who finds her personal and financial situations becoming increasingly dire, leading her to attend campaign events where she corrals the candidates into stating their positions. Interacting with such figures as Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and, most memorably, Michele Bachmann in a virtually private chat over coffee at a diner, she presents herself as a Christian conservative who decries her local Planned Parenthood clinic as a “murder factory” — albeit one that she is forced to turn to herself for care when facing cancer without having any health insurance. “As long as it’s not Obamacare,” she tells a flustered doctor.
Interspersing the toothless political satire with a melodramatic storyline involving Janeane’s husband losing his job and the revelation that he’s having an affair, the film ironically serves to provide sympathy for the various politicians who respond to the character’s desperate pleas with a mixture of canned policy positions and genuine-seeming concern. Of course, the filmmaker also takes pains to include footage of their biggest gaffes, including Rick Perry’s “Oops” moment during the debate, Herman Cain’s invocation of the lyrics from a Pokemon film score and Romney’s “corporations are people too, my friend” remark.
Wilson, staying resolutely in character, is so believable in her travails that the film may not even be perceived as a spoof by less sharp viewers, which is no doubt what the filmmaker intended. But other than providing yet another meta-theatrical examination of the ever-blurring line between reality and artifice, Janeane From Des Moines emerges as a pointless affair.
Opened: Friday, Oct. 12 (Wilsilu Pictures)
Cast: Jane Edith Wilson, Michael Oosterom, Melanie Merkovsky
Director: Grace Lee
Screenwriters/producers: Grace Lee, Jane Edith Wilson
Executive producer: Chip Rosenbloom
Director of photography: Jerry Henry
Editor: Aldo Velasco
Production designer: Nathan Amondson
Composer: Ceiri Torjussen
Not rated, 78 min.
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