SARAH PALIN YOU BETCHA, 2011
Starring: Sarah Palin, Nick Broomfield and John McCain
Nick Broomfield goes in pursuit of Sarah Palin, interviewing her family and friends, for a decidedly unauthorized perspective on this growing force in American politics.
The opening minutes of 'Sarah Palin: You Betcha!' document a speech the one-time Vice Presidential candidate gave as she was making her way through the initial stages of the campaign, and while there isn't anything spectacular about it (apart from Palin's reliably intense rhetoric) there were already titters emanating from corners of the cinema. Because in many circles, and frankly in the type of circles which were going to attend this film, Palin is a running joke. A terrifyingly real one, like a cautionary tale come to life, but a joke nonetheless.
But this doesn't make Channel 4 documentarian Nick Broomfield's job any easier; if anything it makes it a challenge in tone, and in the hunt for new information on a woman who's been picked to the bone by the "lamestream media". Broomfield's work to date has taken on such varied subjects as Kurt Cobain, Aileen Wuornus and Tupac, but in 'You Betcha!' he never quite manages to drag himself out from underneath well-worn territory and easy jokes that make up so much of Palin's cultural commentary.
Not that he had the easiest of tasks ahead of him - since her disastrous run for Vice President Palin has been more than cautious about the media. And it's not just her campaign team and associates that are locked down - in her hometown of Wasilla, Broomfield finds himself up against the small town fear that pits potential interviewees against one of the most influential women in the country. This is the real meat at the heart of this story: the type of small-town politics that lets elected officials run roughshod over friends and enemies alike, and what kind of climate (both literal and figurative) creates a figure as unnerving as Palin.
But as Broomfield runs into endless closed doors and tight lips, he starts to take the easy way out - and extended footage of Palin's famous verbal mis-steps and factual hilarities makes for uncomfortable viewing. At home on YouTube it's funny, in a crowded cinema it takes on an altogether more mob-like atmosphere.
By its final minutes, 'You Betcha!' does carve out a compelling critique of Palin, lining up a string of former allies who were betrayed by her as she used them as stepping stones - but up until that point it suffers from a subject that Broomfield cannot get close enough to for an interview, and a lack of invention that stops it from being the more generalised expose of small-town politics and ambition that it could have been.
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