Aaron Noonan reviews your filmic choices, White House style – just in time for the coming US election…
The War Room (1993): The War Room is a documentary depicting the activities of the campaign to elect Bill Clinton to presidency in 1992. It follows George Stephanopoulos and James Carville, respectively Clinton’s Communications Director and Lead Strategist. Their ﬁght for the Oval Ofﬁce is not an easy one – a sex scandal emerges with a woman named Gennifer Flowers claiming to have had a 12 year relationship with Clinton, causing massive damage to his reputation. It goes from bad to worse when it transpires that Clinton may have dodged the draft in order not to serve in war in Vietnam.
Despite this, Clinton won the Presidential election, and this documentary reveals the skill and determination required by Stephanopoulos and Carville to overcome these scandals and convince the American people that Clinton was the right man for the job.
The West Wing (1999-2006): The West Wing is the brain-child of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who also created HBO’s The Newsroom (2012) and wrote David Fincher’s The Social Network (2010). Set in a ﬁctional democratic White House, and running for seven seasons, the show exhibits in explicit detail the inner workings of the Bartlet Presidency, from the passing of legislation and the difﬁculties surrounding partisan politics, running election campaigns, government scandals, to foreign policy issues and international crises. While the show has been criticised by some for being overly sentimental, it has been lauded by political science professors and even some former White House staffers. It offers the most exhaustive and complete view of the US government in action on television to date, while still remaining an incredibly exciting piece of drama. For anybody looking for an introduction as to how the United States government operates, The West Wing is a very good place to start.
Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939): Frank Capra’s 1939 ﬁlm about one junior Senator’s effort to change politics has become a classic in the seventy three years since it was ﬁrst released. It stars a young Jimmy Stewart as a man with no political experience being rushed in as a replacement for a recently deceased senator. His crooked superiors believe his naivety will make him easily manipulated, while the public will respond to his good looks and demeanour. Essentially a puppet, he ﬁnds himself at the centre of a scandal fabricated by corrupt senators and must seek to afﬁrm his innocence and win back support of the people and the Senate. While the ﬁlm is a wholly patriotic American piece, it remains very entertaining and informative, as Washington is seen through the eyes of a man who never even considered politics. Mr Smith Goes to Washington is more rewarding as a ﬁlm work than a commentary on American politics, but it’s still very much worth a watch for anyone with an interest in it. It’s also impossible not to love Jimmy Stewart.