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Reconsidering Romney

With Mitt now streaming on Netflix, here’s what everyone learned—or didn’t—about the man who could have been President

To film Mitt, Netflix’s behind-the-podium documentary on the 2012 Presidential hopeful, director Greg Whiteley followed Mitt Romney and his family on the campaign trail for six years, beginning the moment when Romney first decided to run for the U.S. Presidency. What Whiteley ended up with is an apolitical film at its core, catching on camera what reviewers agree humanizes a robotic Republican. Even Romney himself told the director it was “painful to watch.” Mitt is currently streaming on Netflix, but if you fear having the same reaction, read on for a few main takeaways.

 

His Brood Is Larger Than You Thought
“If this documentary has a theme, it is: grandchildren…New ones appear in every scene, like so much Ralph-Lauren-clad spillover from a tiny clown car. (Whiteley told me that over the course of the six years he spent filming, he could not believe how many Romney grandchildren there were. ‘It’s insane,’ he said.)”

“Mitt Netflix Documentary is the Best Thing from the Romney Campaign” by The New Republic’s Laura Bennett

 

Also, the Romneys Might Be Robots
“…The family sometimes appears like a living room in a Restoration Hardware catalog—too perfect for any actual human interaction.”

“‘Mitt’ Isn’t a Campaign Documentary As Much As a Home Movie” by Slate’s John Dickerson

 

Mitt Could Be Your Dad
“When Mitt, upon seeing the 2008 New Hampshire primary returns, stifles a curse word by adopting a silly falsetto and exclaiming, ‘That’s not good!’ my wife turned to me and said, ‘Oh my gosh, Mitt Romney is my dad.’

The reaction to the film in my living room was essentially a tribal one. This was no crowd of right-wingers…but in this portrayal of Mitt, they saw shades of their grandfathers, bishops, and Boy Scout leaders, and they instinctively sympathized with him.”

“I Watched the New Mitt Romney Documentary With My Wife and It Was a Huge Mistake” by Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins

 

He Likes the Smell of Burning Leaves
“One scene summed up some of his awkwardness as a campaigner. At a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant in Cleveland, a man approached to say hello. Romney smiled, enthusiastically waved, walked over, and shook hands. The man told him that on this fall day he had been ‘blowing leaves’ and said Romney ‘brought the sunshine to Cleveland, Ohio.’

Romney replied by saying, ‘You’re blowing leaves today? Oh, it’s a good day when the sun’s shining…Now, when I was a boy we used to burn the leaves. They don’t do that anymore, of course.’

‘No, no,’ the man said.

Romney went on. ‘So, we used to put them in front of the street, you know, and burn them, and then smoke—I love the smell.'”

“‘Mitt’ Gets Real: Documentary Shows Another Side of Romney” by NBC News’ Dominico Montanaro

 

He’s a Fan of NPR—and Potty Humor
“One of the most fascinating scenes in ‘Mitt’ comes when Mitt and his sons are sitting at a dinner table, two hours before the second debate. They are listening, for whatever reason, to a 2002 episode of ‘This American Life,’ courtesy of an iPhone on the table. The episode features David Sedaris, joking about taking a catheter with him everywhere.

All the Romneys laugh hysterically. There is Mitt Romney, laughing at a joke about public urination.”

“‘Mitt’ Exposes the Fundamental Flaw in a Lot of Campaigns” by Business Insider’s Brett LoGiurato

 

He Needs Almost No Time to Get Ready
“It’s totally normal to iron the cuffs of your suit while it’s already on, right? Oh—it isn’t, and it’s totally dangerous. Romney literally takes an iron to his wrist, repeatedly letting out an ‘ouch’ while trying to smooth out some wrinkles before the White House Correspondents dinner. Luckily, he has a sense of humor about it, later poking fun at his penguin suit at the dinner.”

“Ten Things We Learned About Mitt Romney from Netflix Documentary” by Entertainment Weekly’s Jake Periman

 

He’s Just a Touch Self-Loathing (Like We All Are)
“What did the fact that he listened to ‘This American Life’ or quoted ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’ or attempted to iron his clothes while wearing them say about his ability to be the President? Surely his handlers wouldn’t have wanted anyone hearing him call himself ‘the flipping Mormon’ or noting, rather bitterly, that he may have been a ‘flawed candidate.’ But there is not much utility in a retrospective gaffe; seen now, the documentary is more intriguing for its general tone, which is one of pathos and quiet regret.”

“Why We Identify With Presidential Losers” by The New Yorker’s Ian Crouch

 

His Campaign Is One Big Family Meeting
“Maybe the most glaring omission from the documentary is any acknowledgement of Romney’s campaign itself—the staff, the volunteers, the high-priced strategists, consultants. Truth be told, these are the people who do much of the work, make many of the decisions, advise the candidate, decide the schedule, create the messaging, etc. In ‘Mitt’‘s world, the campaign is some old-fashioned fantasy version in which a man and his family travel the country together, like a modern-day political Partridge Family, making decisions for themselves in a cocoon divorced from political considerations.”

“No, the New Mitt Romney Documentary Doesn’t ‘Pull Back the Curtain’” by Slate’s Blake Zeff

 

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