Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bob Roberts in 2020

By Steve Evans

Eerily prescient, this political satire from 25 years ago.

Bob Roberts is a mockumentary starring, written and directed by Tim Robbins. It was his directing debut and history shows he has seldom surpassed that freshman effort. Only Dead Man Walking comes close.

Bob Roberts is a hard right-winger running for the US Senate with a beaming stage smile. He's wrapped in the flag, conceals a dark temper, and has a sociopath's instinct for exploiting the easily persuaded. With $5,000 Dolce & Gabanna suits and silk ties to cloak him in a veneer of success, Roberts plays acoustic guitar at his rallies, singing ersatz folk songs set to the lyrics of a fascist. His scam is performance art in pursuit of unchecked political power. A journalist for a radical publication pursues Roberts across the campaign trail, ever-so-close to linking the candidate with all manner of corruption, including connections to CIA drug runners in banana republics. (Amusing side note for my fellow film obsessives: Giancarlo Esposito plays the crusading journalist, and 20 years later he would portray the murderous drug baron Gus Fring in Breaking Bad.)

Look fast for familiar faces in small roles peppered throughout this merciless and hysterically funny film that now terrifies in light of contemporary events. Bob Roberts anticipates the rise of Donald Trump and the mainstreaming of white nationalist hatreds. What was once a satire has become a horror film.

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