* 1/2 (one and half stars)
If you’re looking for a deep, thoughtful examination of the mind of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, you won’t find it in the Sundance film, “Mitt,” which was the festival’s Salt Lake City Gala premiere on Friday at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.
That’s either because Romney didn’t want to invite anyone inside his deepest thoughts — especially someone pointing a camera at him — or filmmaker Greg Whiteley wasn’t interested in showing anything more than Romney’s squeaky-clean image.
The result in this 90-minute documentary, which will premiere on the streaming video site, Netflix, Jan. 24, is a whitewash of a profile. It’s not a warts-and-all documentary but a smiles-and-all portrayal that would have been a boost for Romney’s poll ratings had it come out before the 2012 election.
The whole first half of the film strangely focuses on his 2008 Republican primaries — which he lost to Sen. John McCain — and then abruptly cuts four years later to the final 2012 election against Barack Obama. Not only did it skip the 2012 Republican primary debates leading up to the National Republic Convention, it also glosses over key moments. It barely covers, for example, the aftermath from Romney’s now infamous fundraising meeting in which he was secretly taped saying, “47 percent of the people who will vote for the president” are “dependent on government” and “believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing.”
Instead, “Mitt” unspools more like less-than-candid home movies behind the campaign trail, moments that only the Romneys could love (and reportedly, the Romney family does love this film). It’s a shallow 90 minutes of Romney, his sons, and his wife Ann, mostly trying to second guess whether their ongoing campaign decisions were the right ones.
Whether you lean to the left or to the right, movie viewers interested in Romney’s path to a failed election want more than just an over-stuffed campaign ad from a year ago. Otherwise, producing a documentary this late is nothing but an irrelevant exercise in hero worship.
— Vince Horiuchi
“Mitt” screens again at: Saturday, Jan. 18 • 5:45 p.m., The MARC, Park City; Sunday, Jan. 19 • 6 p.m., Salt Lake City Library Theatre, Salt Lake City; Monday, Jan. 20 • 12:30 p.m., Redstone Cinema 1, Park City; Wednesday, Jan. 22 • Noon, Sundance Resort Screening Room, Sundance Resort; Friday, Jan. 24 • 6:30 p.m., Peery’s Egyptian Theater, Ogden; Saturday, Jan. 25 • 8:30 p.m., Prospector Square Theatre, Park City.