Overview: In MEET THE DONORS: DOES MONEY TALK? intrepid filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi (HBO’s Emmy-winning JOURNEYS WITH GEORGE) takes viewers behind the scenes at top-dollar fundraisers and chats with dozens of ultra-rich mega-donors from both political parties to find out why they are pouring millions into the election.
Armed with her hand-held camera and a sense of humor, Alexandra Pelosi gains exclusive access to the donor class, and offers a peek into the lifestyles of the rich and political. Starting in New York City, arguably home to the most mega-donors and canapé-infused fundraisers, she drops into corner offices and cocktail soirees. Pelosi asks these billionaires and multi-millionaires about the extent of their contributions and giving philosophies. She checks in with mega-donors from across the political spectrum.
Expectations: Especially as of late it been noted that I am not a political animal and documentaries of that kind is what interests me the least. Yet, here is one more for me to review. Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi has the best chance out of anyone to hold my attention on the matter at hand. I don’t really give a rat’s ass about the big political donors out there (some might argue that I should) so I am only hoping that I’ll stay focused for this one.
Gut Reaction: Hey, I got through it and it held my attention. It just goes to show you that just because you are not familiar or interested in a documentary topic you might, upon viewing, become interested or at least be educated and appreciative of the experience. How I see it will come later; now some details on Pelosi’s latest.
Now big-money campaigns have been a big issue for those who follow it all. The fat-cats certainly sling it around because they can and feed it into a system that they hope will work for them. I get it. The subtitle of this documentary is “Does Money Talk?” Come on, we know, regardless of your station in life, the answer to that one. You bet it does, loud and clear for all to hear. However, you don’t get that specific answer from any of the big donors interviewed here. I think it quite a bemusement on how they charismatically or bombastically deliver their answers to that question. Who are they fooling? We hear from Democrat Bernard Schwartz, Haim Saban, founder of Saban Entertainment; former hedge-fund manager Julian Robertson; grocery-store magnate John Catsimatidis; Stanley Hubbard, chairman and CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting; Foster Friess, a mutual-fund investor with a Christian agenda; Sonoma vintner John Jordan; investment banker Brad Freeman; J.B. Pritzker, co-founder of the Pritzer Group and scion to one of America’s richest families; Morris Pearl, chairman of The Patriotic Millionaires; oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens; and hedge-fund manager and philanthropist Tom Steyer. They all were putting on a funny show for the camera or at least that is how I took it.
That also might be because of Pelosi’s approach. She was a bit tongue-in-cheek in her delivery. I think she purposely took that humorous bent as to not to make this a boring, dry film that would lose the interest for some. Her approach, from the opening clips of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington on, helped me enjoy the 105 minutes more. The film is broken down in thirds to show three different types of political donors. The big players took up most of the screen time but attention was paid to the special interest groups and unique contributors that deal in ‘bundling.’ That last one is an interesting type. I can only imagine how this documentary could infuriate those who don’t care for the system. I’ll be surprised if I don’t hear about in the comments below.
In Conclusion: Pelosi’s approach clearly saved this documentary for me. The humorous slant to her questioning kept this topic from being boring. Well, add to that some get acting from the donors with some witty sound bites that I have already forgotten made MEET THE DONORS: DOES MONEY TALK? a film to appreciate. Come on, it had to be awful tough to get all those interviews, right? It also proved educational to swirl in those circles so ever briefly. But, I still don’t give a crap about it.
Next: As we play catch up on our documentaries we review HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT next. It explores the art and influence of Alfred Hitchcock through his famed 1962 interview with the French auteur François Truffaut.