Roseanne for President! (2016) Movie Review

By: Bill Arcenaux –

“I get emotional at how stupid everyone is”, she says with truthful tears in her eyes. There’s not one lying bone in her body, even when making exaggerated jokes. Jokes about a life lived under most exaggerated yet real circumstances. A life most of us have lived and KNOW to be truthful. A self described court jester, Roseanne remains, now and forever, a force of nature. She says what she believes, clever or straight up, and at top volume. You know, for everyone to hear. For the people in the back and those in the balcony.

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Did you know she ran for President of “these” United States back in 2012? I did. I’ll never forget it, reading the article in my Facebook newsfeed, and sharing with the post “I know who I’m voting for!”. Without a shred of facetiousness or irony. I meant it. No offense to Obama, but he’s too cool for school. No offense to Romney, but he’s too typical. All respect to Roseanne, she used to be an impoverished waitress. That alone just about qualifies someone for public service…

A Toast

Roseanne for President! follows the comedienne / third party candidate with a personal touch that feels more familial than standard or professional – something that works in its favor many times. More than just sitting down and interviewing family, the movie itself is like her family, catching her at her most bare and candid. Which, I suppose, is every minute of the day. Which, if expanded upon, means that she’s open with just about everyone. Still, someone had to actually show up with a camera crew.

We see Green Party conventions and conferences held in gymnasiums and such, with volunteers and managers making, by hand, signs and banners. It’s inspiring, seeing such effort put into grass roots politics. Unfortunately, more often than not, we witness the tedium and heartbreak, too. When the filmmakers are filming these events, they will every so often cut to someone sleeping or eating awkwardly, with rabble rousing music piped in for effect. Are they making fun? Yes, but possibly to show just how silly the process can be. It aint all clean cut as CNN would have you believe.

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“Clean cut? I have class.”

The movie establishes well Roseanne’s background and hints at more than it states what inspired her comedy career and hopeful political run. It’s hard to explain just who she is as an individual, though her story could be that of any American, really – which is one of her arguments for being President. It’s a speculative film, probably because, as much as Roseanne lets out, she is clearly holding some things back. While lacking in exploration, it makes up for in just being there.

Beers Two AND Three

Where Roseanne for President! does right by keeping pace and holding interest, it does wrong in not being as inquisitive as it could’ve been. When explaining why she didn’t fly to a Green Party meet and greet, choosing to Skype instead, she explains she was “being Green” by saving fuel. A few other times, she says she doesn’t like shaking hands or even being around others in person. There’s also a string of comments that I can only describe as coming from a paranoid place. Not extreme paranoia, but still.

I don’t want to claim that her decision to enter the Presidential race was done on a whim or by impulsiveness, but her campaigning, outside of healthcare and ending wars, has no… well… campaign. She follows the values of the Green Party, and knows things are crummy. That and some highly vocal satire is about as far as it goes. Certainly, she is serious, but maybe more thought was vacant? Then again, to run in this country, do you really need to put in more thought?

What’s the deal with this behavior? Could it be tied into her campaign somehow? Is it a symptom of that or a reason for that? Has she always exhibited this anxiety? Instead, we see her talk with press over speaker phone from her home. Or watch as she makes an appearance only to quickly return to her comfort zone AKA house. There is most definitely something here worth exploring, and the filmmakers try to throw in these bits whenever possible, but the absence of figuring this out only amounts to explaining it away by calling it quirky. Or best prescribed with weed. I suspect a far richer story.

Verdict

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Personal but not intimate enough, Roseanne for President! is no joke, but does find its subject funny. We all do, of course, but to what degree are we and the filmmakers laughing? It’s an odd documentary, as there are moments of great relatability and great poking fun, with a few times balancing in between. Exploitative? Not necessarily. Sincere? Yes. Confused? Absolutely. Maybe that’s the Roseanne effect for some.

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Roseanne for President! (2016) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for every F bomb Roseanne drops.

Take a Drink: when they play back her (in)famous singing of the national anthem.

Do a Shot: given that Roseanne is a bigger force than the two party system could ever hold.

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Bill Arceneaux is an independent film critic from New Orleans and a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association.

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About Bill Arceneaux

Independent film critic from New Orleans and member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA).

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