‘Roseanne For President’ Is A Misguided Chronicling Of A Disastrous Campaign (FILM REVIEW)

Between Finding Dory continuing to dominate the box office, and comment-happy trolls going out of their way to explain why the new Ghostbusters reboot will suck, a documentary comes out today in limited release that serves as a kind of preamble to the current political climate of 2016. Here’s the catch: all the footage was recorded in 2012, and it chronicles former sitcom maven Roseanne Barr’s quest to become President. Yes, of the United States.

Intentionally or not, the film’s shoddy composition seems to mirror Barr’s campaign, coming off as a kind of hybrid between recycled talking point Bernie Sanders and despicable gaffe-factory Donald Trump. The Sanders angle comes from the usual hyperbole, namely that our elections are bought and sold, and it’s time for the vote of the people to matter. The Trump angle, as just about anyone could guess, comes from her arrogant, brash entitlement; the assumption that she’s the most qualified for the job because she used to wait tables, or because she used to be a stand-up comic (depending on how far along you are in the film).

Intercut between this desperate, unfocused shadow of a campaign are candid shots of Barr at her home in Hawaii, where we learn through interviews with her relatives (namely, her brother Ben Barr) that she has a love affair with marijuana. This sets us up for Barr’s endlessly stoned ramblings, including the big revelation that “nothings real, it’s all a dream” with the kind of philosophical weight of a 14-year-old quoting newly-discovered Doors lyrics.

There’s also the obligatory interviews with various celebrities sprinkled throughout, who seem to be happy to talking about Barr’s brilliance as both a comedian and a sitcom star. None of them, however, appear to have anything to say about her campaign, which seems unusual for a movie called Roseanne For President.

The closest this documentary comes to being interesting is when it briefly shifts focus to her campaign manager, Farheen Hakeem, a woman who works tirelessly on behalf of her employer, including standing in for her at Green Party events that don’t have the wifi set up for Barr to Skype her speech in. (Barr doesn’t travel, explaining she’s not going to “burn jet fuel,” in a moment that I almost begged to become a mini-truther rant.)

Farheen is unceremoniously dropped by the film’s narrative partway through, instead narrowing its focus to Barr’s fight with Green Party celebrity Jill Stein. It’s here that the Trump in Barr really seems to come out strong. She thinks she’s more qualified due to her fame, as she petulantly spouts off at seemingly every opportunity. In a formal interview, (“Is this for CNN or Fox? Is there any difference?”) she says she’ll support Stein should she get the nomination, then cuts to footage of her admitting none of that was true.

Just when you think Barr couldn’t get any more unlikeable, we see one of her campaign appearances alongside Stein, her rival where she tells the audience that she’ll rule “wisely and compassionately.” It then cuts to footage of her screaming directly into the camera “Jill Stein that fucking bitch! Jill Stein that fucking whore!”

How wise, how compassionate.

Of course, anyone who follows politics knows in advance that she doesn’t end up getting the Green Party nomination. What the documentary shows us is yet another temper tantrum where she derides the Green Party as stupid for not nominating her, lumping Jill Stein in with all the other “bought and sold” politicians.

With the Green Party out of the question, there’s a tacked-on 20 minute sequence near the end where she ends up running on the Peace and Freedom ticket. It does contain the only remotely Presidential appearance in the whole documentary, at least as far as fringe politics goes. She’s also shifted her entire premise to legalizing marijuana, the lowest common denominator platform for blowhards who run for office who have no business in doing so.

Spoiler alert: she loses. So does the audience.

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