Friday, February 20, 2009

Harrison for America

Genre: Political Satire
Synopsis: A down-and-out political fundraiser will do anything to get his candidate elected president.
About: Berger (the son of President Clinton's National Security Adviser Sandy Berger) wrote the script after interviewing professional fundraisers in Washington and Los Angeles.
Writer: Alex Berger

"The Office goes to Washington."
Let me let you in on a little secret (I like letting you guys in on my secrets). I’m not a political person. I’m actually anti-political if that’s possible. I find that the most annoying people I’ve met on a consistent basis are political freaks. And boy did I meet a lot of them during this last campaign. I think I lost a few friends because of some of the things that people told me I *had* to do (newsflash: I don’t fucking have to do anything), and usually, a politically-themed movie gets me about as excited as a 70s themed one (read Land of The Lost review for reference).
But man, I am fascinated with fund-raising. That we pretend like we’re involved in this completely democratic society where the best man always wins is kind of a joke. Winning a campaign is about money, and as our main character, FINCH, lets us know in the opening voice over, “the person with the most money almost always wins.” I knew this, but I never knew what went on behind the curtains. How it all came together (or fell apart). In the first five pages of Harrison For America, I learned more about the presidential campaign process than I've learned in the last 25 years.
Finch is the Jerry Maguire of campaign advisors. He’s a shark. He once attacked a donor’s Bentley with a 6-iron for missing his commitment by 100 dollars. He doesn’t know the names of half the people who work in his office, referring to random staffers as "New Chick" and “Bald Dude." When told that one of the staffers can’t make it to a fund raiser cause she just delivered a baby, Finch’s response is, “So?”
Besides Finch we’re given Kimble, his na├»ve niece, Jerry and Audrey (a wealthy businessman and his trophy wife) and their daughter Olivia, an entrepreneur who's still not out of grade school. Because Finch is representing a senator who's currently in 12th place, he can't get anyone to give him money. Jerry, who isn't the brightest bulb on the tree, becomes his sole target to raise just enough money to last another week on the campaign trail. Because the maximum amount of money any one person can donate is 2300 dollars – the goal is to target a well-connected individual and get all of his friends to show up at a party. That way, instead of 2300 dollars, you can make 230,000 dollars.
And see that’s the problem with Harrison For President. It doesn’t go anywhere. On page 70 we’re still fighting for the same campaign dollars we were 48 hours ago. The script starts out with such a bang, I was under the impression we were going to witness something with scope - an entire campaign. I was hoping to see all of the decisions involved as the fundraisers and players and stakes kept getting higher and higher. Instead we’re given Finch running around like a chicken with his head cut off, trying to find money. If this were a joke, it would be “Why *didn’t* the chicken cross the road?” Cause unfortunately, Harrison For President never does. It's a bit of a letdown. It’s kind of like being promised a movie with a bunch of robots fighting, but instead getting 360 degree extreme close-ups of CGI metal melding together and you can never tell what the hell is going on. You know?
Fortunately the script survives because of Finch. He's hilarious. He'll fuck a cougar to get his 2300 bucks. There's some backstory there about his father being the best campaign manager ever - and him trying to live up to him - that does what it's meant to. There's also a rival campaign manager, the hot but deadly Bobby (female), who's managing the presidential front runner. They'll go to the ends of the earth to fuck each other over. And then there's poor Kimble, the niece, who just wants to change the world. So when she starts sleeping with a guy from the rival campaign, only to find out that Bobby orchestrated it to get information on their candidate...well, needless to say her world comes crumbling down.
The story is told like an episode of The Office. A documentary crew is following them around. People duck their head in every once in awhile to give interviews. It definitely infuses the story with an energy. But it loses some of that scope I was hoping to see.
In the end I'd probably recommend Harrison For America. It's definitely the best political satire I've ever read. Just keep in mind I hate political satires. :)
[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned from Harrison For America: This is just a reminder that a great character can make an average script a good or even great script. You read Finch and you think, "God, I can think of a million actors who would want to play this role."