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'Mitt' is more than met the eye

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The new documentary about former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the aptly named ‘Mitt,’ reveals a wittier, humanized version of the candidate that was rarely seen on the demanding campaign trail. ‘Mitt’ will not change your political views, but it may, surprisingly, slightly reshape and soften the way you remember the man, himself.

In 2006, documentarian Greg Whiteley got wind of the rumor that former Governor of Massachusetts and successful businessman Romney might be seeking to run for the office of president. After speaking with Romney’s son Tagg, Whiteley was encouraged he could convince the former governor to give him unprecedented access to his behind-the-scenes campaign. So, on Christmas Eve, 2006, Whiteley showed up at the Romneys’ home. Filming soon began and lasted for 6 years from the former Governor’s first bid in 2008 (losing the Republican nomination to Senator John McCain) all the way through Romney’s final presidential bid defeat in 2012.

Very unexpectedly, the journey captures Romney’s personal thoughts and previously unseen sense of humor (his quoting of political lines from the film, 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?,' and his enjoyment of humorist David Sedaris’ classic ‘Stadium Pal’ bit). Viewers are also privy to candid comments from his immediate family, who at one point fascinatingly give two versions of a response to an issue: the expected media response and the ‘translated’ personal response. And, Romney’s unwavering commitment to his campaign, particularly during his second attempt at the presidency, is clear throughout the film, as he is repeatedly praying, doggedly and exhaustedly stumping, and linking his pursuit of the presidency with the reverence he has for his late father. As a result, the film finally allows viewers a peek behind the veneer of Mitt’s polished public persona.

The strength of the documentary’s arc is its ability to humanize Romney in a way that the Republican party was not able to do for many voters. Accordingly, it may potentially leave viewers with a sense that the man is not simply the ‘47 percent’-elitist that many thought him to be. However, the curtain is never pulled back too far, there is a certain measure of dignity that Whiteley affords Romney at all times. We never really see extended strategizing sessions with handlers nor much of the discord that likely occurred over the course of the emotional campaign. As such, one may wonder if the purpose of the film was to rebrand Romney and seed the market for future political aspirations. Regardless, ‘Mitt’ is worthwhile viewing for those on both sides of the political aisle. ‘Mitt’ is rated 4 of 5 stars (‘recommended viewing’).

‘Mitt’ debuted at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 17th. It will be available for instant streaming exclusively on Netflix beginning Friday, January 24th, beginning at 1pm CST.

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