Movie Review: Bob Roberts (1992)

Wrapping it in the flag and a folk song (9/10)
Directed by Tim Robbins

Original Review by Brian R. Wright, November 19, 2006

Bob Roberts is a timely movie about national political cynicism that was intended to satirize the Republican Revolution of 1994.  Others have contended the subject of the satire was the Reagan 80s, against the Gordon Gekko “Greed is Good” crowd.

But it could not be more appropriate to the rise and ascendancy of the Bush II clique.

Roberts, a Pennsylvania Senate candidate , is a rich, smarmy, guitar-strumming, media savvy corporate shill.  He sings folk songs about the joys of strip mining, stock-market success, and capital punish- ment for drug dealers.

The review on the IMDB site  states Roberts is eerily prescient of Rick Santorum, who won the 1994 Senate race in Pennsylvania by affecting the same style as Tim Robbins in the title role.  Like Bob Roberts, Santorum postured as a friend of the common man, yet was a front for powerful corporate interests (esp. the health insurance industry).

The cast is stellar, as writer-director Robbins skewers the lazy, posturing media—actors Fred Ward, Pamela Reed, and James Spader send up good roles—; malicious security hacks (Alan Rickman); and the gullible public itself.

Selected Cast
Tim Robbins :              Bob Roberts
Gore Vidal :                 Sen. Brickley Paiste
Giancarlo Esposito  :    Bugs Raplin
Alan Rickman :             Lukas Hart III
James Spader :            Mack Laflin
Jack Black :                  Roger Davis
Helen Hunt :                 Rose Pondell
Peter Gallagher:           Dan Riley
John Cusack:               Cutting Edge Host
Susan Sarandon :        Tawna Titan
Fred Ward :                 Chip Dale

This may be Jack Black’s first movie role.  He plays a teenage boy practically frothing at the mouth to destroy the foes of his divinely inspired hero Bob.  Black’s performance eloquently reveals the psychology of mass hysteria.

The main plot sets Roberts against a stodgy older incumbent senator, played by Gore Vidal, who has scruples and intellect.  But integrity is powerless against the mass-marketing media machine Roberts sets loose against him.

A subplot concerns a reporter from an independent news magazine who has information on Roberts’ past misdeeds and indictable criminal behavior.  But the reporter is a down-and-outer nobody listens to; when the reporter does get something solid, Roberts’ security people frame an incident leading to the reporter’s death.

There’s a clever scene at the end of the movie that has implications for his culpability.  Does anyone notice?  That’s the $64,000 question.More important, does anyone notice the continued lies and deceptions that afflict Roberts’ entire self-presentation.  It’s here the parallels are relevant to the modern-day Bush-Cheney machine.

Why is it no one seems to care about the obvious lies and deceptions being perpetrated before our very eyes: the election frauds, the closed-door energy policies, 911, the lies for war, depleted uranium, secret detentions, torture, and environmental ravages—to mention a few?

Bob Roberts answers the question pointedly: media complicity.  The domination of standard information systems, especially television, by the power people seems thoroughgoing.

Fortunately, the real people still have the Internet.

[Coffee Coaster Review link]

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