Review: Reagan (Sundance)
PLOT: A look into the life and presidency of Ronald Reagan- charting his evolution from B-Movie actor in the thirties and forties, to his eventual reign as the fortieth president of the United States.
REVIEW: Of all the films playing at the 2011 edition of the Sundance Film Festival, REAGAN was high on my must-see list. Iíve always been fascinated by Reaganís reign. Throughout his eight years in office, he was a wildly popular president, and to this day heís seen as almost a messianic figure by the Republican Party. Of course, Reagan remains a controversial figure, and many would argue that Reaganís economic policies (Reaganomics) helped pave the way for the precarious economic state in which much of the Western world currently finds itself.
For the most part, REAGAN manages to be an incredibly fair and accurate seeming portrait of the man. One of the common complaints I heard after the screening at Sundance was that it was a tad wishy-washy, but I donít think thatís the case. You can call Reagan many things, but this doc tires to dispel the notion that he was just some doddering old man for much of his presidency, and prone to dementia. In fact, the doc argues that Reagan only ever started to suffer from the Alzheimerís that eventually killed him several years after his presidency.
Rather, the things that made him controversial including his Iran-Contra affair, his draconian economic policies, and his characterization of Russia as an Ďevil empire Ďwere deliberate moves made by a man in full control of his faculties.
While to some, that might make Reagan a diabolical figure, Eugene Jareckiís doc tries to paint a sympathetic portrait of the man. Agree or disagree with his policies, Jarecki makes it clear that REAGAN was not malicious, although he was certainly a product of his times. The doc uses many interviews to debate and discuss the key points of his presidency, but the guy Jarecki keeps coming back to is Ron Reagan Jr. As a man, Reagan says that his father was wonderful, but as a president, his biggest issue comes from the way Reagan ignored the growing AIDS crisis, a mistake that cost untold amounts of lives. Reagan only ever threw himself into the fight when one of his Hollywood friends, Rock Hudson, succumbed to the disease, and this is a shortcoming that many would argue haunts his legacy more than anything else.
Love him of hate him, REAGAN is a fascinating watch, and if youíre curious, you can check it out this month on HBO, when it airs in conjunction with the centennial of his birth. Itís a solid piece of work, and very enlightening. One of the funniest parts of the doc was the notion that Reaganís Star Wars initiative was lifted from an old WW2 potboiler B-flick he made for Warner Bros back in the day. Fascinating stuff. Whatever he was, Reagan was one of a kind.