How do you get the Republicans vying for the presidential nomination to appear in a movie which might not show them in the most flattering light? You might have a nondescript, middle-aged actress pose as a Tea Party conservative during the lead up to the Iowa caucus, a time when the candidates generally make themselves available to valuable voters.
That was the inspired idea of filmmaker Grace Lee, who followed around Janeane Wilson (Jane Edith Wilson) with a camera at the State Fair where it was relatively easy to approach the likes of Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Pretending to be unemployed, uninsured, suffering from breast cancer and in danger of losing her home, the desperate protagonist sobbed while asking each of the Republican hopefuls how they planned to help someone like her.
The upshot is a gotcha docudrama that's a cross of "Borat" and Michael Moore which captures some of the candidates as plastic, some as somewhat sympathetic. The only problem with "Janeane from Des Moines" is that it feels a bit dated, as it is arriving in theaters a little late since, at this point, we really care more about Romney's responses than any of the also-rans.
Although his callous "Corporations are people" comment is included here, he proves to be about as patient as one might expect of a polished politician with bigger fish to catch. And even though he knows how to escape the clutches of a very clingy constituent, you come away feeling he's actually acting just as much as Janeane, who becomes disenchanted with the whole lot by film's end.
The futile search for a presidential candidate who cares about the average person's everyday concerns, a quest leading frustrated Janeane to conclude that her only option is to pull the lever for Obama in November.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 78 minutes
Distributor: Wilsilu Pictures