Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Hating Breitbart

Love him or hate him, this documentary about the polarizing figure leaves you wanting more substance.

May 16, 2013

-By Frank Scheck


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1377498-Hating_Breitbart_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

It’s not just its subject’s untimely death that makes Hating Breitbart feel maddeningly incomplete. Andrew Marcus’ documentary about the controversial media critic and self-admitted conservative provocateur paints only a sketchy portrait that fails to fully convey his background and motivations. Content to deliver a fly-on-the-wall examination of the charismatic figure as it recounts his more prominent battles with the so-called mainstream media and the left wing, the deceptively titled film mainly emerges as a hagiographic tribute.

Breitbart, who died of a heart ailment last year at the age of 43, apparently achieved a political conversion at the hands of his father-in-law, actor Orson Bean, who recounts how he once gave him a Rush Limbaugh book. That’s about all we learn of the reasons for his passionate loathing of the media establishment and big government, which he vigorously attacked through his work for Matt Drudge and eventually his own websites.

“The left pits people against each other... Divide and conquer is the strategy,” Breitbart says at one point, before vigorously repeating the phrase “I don’t want to live in that world” three times.

Filmed during the last two years of his life, the documentary largely concerns itself with four of his best-known media battles. First and foremost is his posting of videos by self-styled journalist James O’Keefe, who pretended to be a pimp soliciting funding for a brothel from all-too-cooperative employees of ACORN. This was followed by his exposure of a video of U.S. Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod’s speech in which she admitted to once denying a white farmer her help; his passionate defense of Tea Party protesters who were accused by several black congressman, including civil-rights pioneer John Lewis, of shouting racial epithets; and finally, in a sort of coda, his revelation of Anthony Weiner’s creepy Twitter posts.

With the undeniable exception of the last, all of these episodes are open to passionate debate, with charges flying back and forth about entrapment, selective editing, unsubstantiated allegations and so on. That the film begins with a series of clips of negative media coverage of the Tea Party movement indicates where its sympathies lie, although it’s careful to include commentary from several journalistic figures who sharply criticize Breitbart’s methods.

This is contrasted with glowing testimony by such figures as Michele Bachmann and Texas governor Rick Perry, the latter of whom declares, in his own inimitable manner, that “Andrew Breitbart is a stud!”

What ultimately emerges from the film is that Breitbart, for all his firebrand tendencies, was a clearly intelligent and likeable guy. Describing himself as having only two speeds, “jocularity and righteous indignation,” his willingness to make fun of himself is illustrated in footage of a silly photo shoot in which, among other things, he poses with an American flag wrapped around his bare torso.

As with so many politically themed docs, Hating Breitbart is a case of preaching to the choir. Lacking the objectivity or contextual analysis to more fully examine the important issues it raises, it’s a minor chapter in an unfinished story.
The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: Hating Breitbart

Love him or hate him, this documentary about the polarizing figure leaves you wanting more substance.

May 16, 2013

-By Frank Scheck


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1377498-Hating_Breitbart_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

It’s not just its subject’s untimely death that makes Hating Breitbart feel maddeningly incomplete. Andrew Marcus’ documentary about the controversial media critic and self-admitted conservative provocateur paints only a sketchy portrait that fails to fully convey his background and motivations. Content to deliver a fly-on-the-wall examination of the charismatic figure as it recounts his more prominent battles with the so-called mainstream media and the left wing, the deceptively titled film mainly emerges as a hagiographic tribute.

Breitbart, who died of a heart ailment last year at the age of 43, apparently achieved a political conversion at the hands of his father-in-law, actor Orson Bean, who recounts how he once gave him a Rush Limbaugh book. That’s about all we learn of the reasons for his passionate loathing of the media establishment and big government, which he vigorously attacked through his work for Matt Drudge and eventually his own websites.

“The left pits people against each other... Divide and conquer is the strategy,” Breitbart says at one point, before vigorously repeating the phrase “I don’t want to live in that world” three times.

Filmed during the last two years of his life, the documentary largely concerns itself with four of his best-known media battles. First and foremost is his posting of videos by self-styled journalist James O’Keefe, who pretended to be a pimp soliciting funding for a brothel from all-too-cooperative employees of ACORN. This was followed by his exposure of a video of U.S. Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod’s speech in which she admitted to once denying a white farmer her help; his passionate defense of Tea Party protesters who were accused by several black congressman, including civil-rights pioneer John Lewis, of shouting racial epithets; and finally, in a sort of coda, his revelation of Anthony Weiner’s creepy Twitter posts.

With the undeniable exception of the last, all of these episodes are open to passionate debate, with charges flying back and forth about entrapment, selective editing, unsubstantiated allegations and so on. That the film begins with a series of clips of negative media coverage of the Tea Party movement indicates where its sympathies lie, although it’s careful to include commentary from several journalistic figures who sharply criticize Breitbart’s methods.

This is contrasted with glowing testimony by such figures as Michele Bachmann and Texas governor Rick Perry, the latter of whom declares, in his own inimitable manner, that “Andrew Breitbart is a stud!”

What ultimately emerges from the film is that Breitbart, for all his firebrand tendencies, was a clearly intelligent and likeable guy. Describing himself as having only two speeds, “jocularity and righteous indignation,” his willingness to make fun of himself is illustrated in footage of a silly photo shoot in which, among other things, he poses with an American flag wrapped around his bare torso.

As with so many politically themed docs, Hating Breitbart is a case of preaching to the choir. Lacking the objectivity or contextual analysis to more fully examine the important issues it raises, it’s a minor chapter in an unfinished story.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Second Opinion
Film Review: Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering

Highly provocative documentary posits that a viable cancer drug has been suppressed for more than 40 years. More »

Through a Lens Darkly
Film Review: Through a Lens Darkly

An undeniably great subject is, ironically, trivialized by a blindly too-inclusive and injudicious filmmaker. More »

The Naked Room
Film Review: The Naked Room

Admirable though frustrating attempt to portray mental illness within a neglected population. More »

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears
Film Review: The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears

A film as stylish as it is narratively labyrinthine. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Film Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Neither significantly better nor worse than its predecessor, the belated Sin City sequel is more of a repeat, rather than a continuation, of the original. More »

If I Stay
Film Review: If I Stay

Delivers as promised. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here