There’s never been a Hollywood figure quite like Warren Beatty.
Despite his matinee-idol looks, Beatty made his movie star bones in the incredibly controversial, ground-breakingly violent, French New Wave-inspired Bonnie & Clyde.
Rather than striking while the iron was hot after changing cinema forever, Beatty disappeared for three years. And that’s pretty much been the story of his career, with monumental cultural smashes followed by long periods of almost-total absence. It was not uncommon for Beatty to take multi-year gaps between every film appearance, a trend that has only grown more pronounced as the years have passed.
Beatty’s latest, Rules Don’t Apply, opens this week, his first foray to the big screen since 2001’s mega-bomb Town & Country (Fun Fact: You absolutely have never heard of this movie before), and we thought we would take the opportunity to look back on Beatty’s last film as director, 1998’s political satire Bulworth.
Jay Bulworth (Beatty) is a Democratic Senator from California up for re-election. Whatever ideals or ideas had once driven him to seek office, they’ve been steadily beaten out of his system by the push-and-pull of DC politics. The man we meet at the start of the film is a husk, weeping as he watches the same shit commercial with the same shit slogan play out over and over again.
Bulworth has been driven so low, he takes out a massive life insurance policy on himself and hires a hitman to end it all before the end of the weekend. With nothing to live for and no life to look forward to, Bulworth starts living life to the fullest and “telling it like it is” on the campaign trail. He also becomes heavily interested in this fabulous new invention: Rap.
Featuring supporting turns by Oliver Platt and Scandal’s Joshua Malina as political operatives, Sean Astin as a camera guy, and several talented black people as criminals, Bulworth has remained short-hand for politicians when they talk about their want to just cut loose from the rigmarole and really let it rip.
In light of our recent election madness, does Bulworth‘s satire still have some bite? Find out below!
Next Week’s Pick:
After a somewhat grueling month of political movies when we’ve suddenly become tired of politics, we decided to pull out something purely for the fun of it. Friend of Cinapse Rockie Juarez has always actively championed the outrageous hockey n’ fightin’ comedy Goon. A sequel directed by Jay Baruchel (who co-wrote the original) is in development, and has in fact just dropped a fresh new red band trailer a couple days ago. There’s no better time than now to catch up on – or enjoy again – this much loved but underseen sports comedy.
Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co!
This movie felt super fresh for me, despite watching it several times before. In light of the 2016 election, Bulworth’s honesty is so refreshing. His honesty trumps the supposed “telling it like it is” and “speaking his mind” that won the President-elect this election. It’s refreshing. And the guarded and careful articulation of Hillary Clinton this past election turned off to many people that I can’t help but yearn for our own J. Billington to rise up.
I love this movie. Funny, fun, and chock full of potent commentary. Great way to wrap this election cycle. (@thepaintedman)
There are good actors who loan this embarrassment some actual weight. Oliver Platt especially puts the movie on his back and delivers an energetic and fully-realized character, the kind of eager-to-please monster that would fit right in on a Veep or similarly acidic show. Halle, Berry and Don Cheadle are stuck with ridiculous characters, but both work overtime to find something sincere beneath the polemic.
But most damaging to Bulworth is simply the passage of time. Like American Beauty and Fight Club, this film is an artifact of a moment in time when we truly believed that history had come to an end in the 90s and the biggest thing for white dudes to lash out against was their own status as white dudes. In these pre-GWB days, Democrats and Republicans were seen as being interchangeable with easily swapped values, a belief that still maddeningly persists today.
It’s a crock of shit, and the condescension of Bulworth and its ilk is all the more irritating given how pervasive that crock continues to be within our populace. (@TheTrueBrendanF)
But once Bulworth starts commenting on the issues, it’s a weird muddle of messages. Brendan has already identified what felt the most off-putting to me, which was the depiction and attitudes of race. Bulworth’s speech to a black church congregation, ostensibly open and honest, seemed weirdly contemptuous and insulting toward his audience, and things only get muddier from there, especially with all the kooky and embarrassing parts where he “raps”. Badly.
On the other hand, there’s a lot of charm to the whole “politics is bullshit” frankness. And while the message is often muddled, I dug the vibe of shaking off political niceties and speaking from the gut. (@VforVashaw)
Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!