Less than a week ago, a man named Greg Gianforte won a congressional seat in Montana despite reportedly body slamming a reporter the day before the election. That incident represents the latest peak in the death of civility in American politics. Roger Stone was, as explained in this movie, was there every step of the way for the deterioration of it, compared to a right-wing Forrest Gump.
Get Me Roger Stone is as much of a tragic ode to how disgusting the election system has become as it is a profile of a man. Liberals will see this as a horror film, essentially the recapping of their most painful defeats of the past fifty years. Conservatives might as well kiss the floor and thank the Lord after seeing it, as they’ll view him as a freedom fighter.
I’m not here to review Stone’s political views; that’s for another group of people to cast judgement on. This documentary, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and is now on Netflix, is a shrewd look into the fake news era. Director Dylan Bank understands that there’s no point in wading into such dirty waters to clean them. He doesn’t spend the time trying to play gotcha with Stone; rather, he’s smart enough to let his subject talk, exposing himself with statements that let you make judgements on the adviser. Again, he’s smart enough to keep this a Rorschach test, not a hit job.
The first thirty to forty-five minutes are a standard documentary. You see the rise of Stone, initially hired to work on the Nixon campaign as a 19-year-old. Roger views Tricky Dick as his political God (he has a tattoo of the former president on his back), and refines it to its greatest/worst levels in history. It starts off as more innocent, if you can call it that. Stone starts an advising firm with partners and uses a government loophole to start one of the first SuperPACs.
He basically goes on the standard consultant path for the first part of his career, advising Republican candidates, although there are some signs of the depths he will go to. His advising firm helps dictators in other countries. He finds Trump in the late 80s, and shops him around as a presidential candidate even as he’s supporting Jack Kemp.
A sex scandal in 1996 knocks him out of the establishment loop, and this is where where we learn the most about Stone. It is in exile that Stone morphs into the professional troll/marketer that he is today, reinventing himself as a conspiracy theorist that pals around with Alex Jones. Given his showmanship (cigars, fine suits and majestic hat), it’s not surprising that Stone originally wanted to be an actor, and his wacky ways suits his outsider image.
In Trump, Stone finds his Mary Sue, the figure which to finish Stone’s anti-establishment crusade. This film’s coverage of the 2016 election night accurately captures the horror Clinton voters felt, while slyly shifting to the glee felt by Trump supporters. I’ll give credit to Banks; that transition didn’t feel jarring.
Much of this documentary covers the recent presidential election. Banks’ ability to draw a connection between Stone, InfoWars, the Trump campaign and their various surrogates makes for something resembling a horror movie, or a triumphant documentary celebrating the underdog. Not because of the politics, but rather due to how in-depth the collusion is. Whether or not that cooperation includes the Russian government, I guess we’ll have to wait for Get Me Roger Stone Again to see.
There’s a lot of telling lines in here, but the one that stuck with me is at the end. When the question is posed that people might watch this and hate Stone, he simply responds “I revel in your hated, because if I weren’t effective, you wouldn’t hate me.” At that moment, you wonder if Stone agreed to do this documentary cause he wanted to increase his visibility, even if it’s through hatred. After all, this is a man who thinks that being the target of negative press is better than getting no press at all.
I can’t shake the feeling that Banks got played by Stone. What a dirty trick.
Published by Jagger Czajka