Shattered Politics #88: Grassroots (dir by Stephen Gyllenhaal)


Grassroots_2012Well, it’s nearly over.

For the past three weeks, I’ve been watching and reviewing 94 films about politics and politicians.  We started Shattered Politics by reviewing the 1930 film Abraham Lincoln and, 86 reviews later, we have finally reached 2012!  It’s hard to believe that, over just three weeks, I have reviewed that many films.  Some of those films have been good.  Some of them have been bad.  And, quite a few of them, have been somewhere in between.

The 2012 film Grassroots in one of those in between sort of films.  It’s based on a true story.  Phil Campbell (Jason Biggs) is a Seattle-based journalist who has just lost his job.  Unsure what to do with himself, Phil finds himself reluctantly dragged into the city council campaign of his friend, a music critic named Grant Cogswell (Joel David Moore).

Grant is running because he feels that the city council is not making proper use of the Seattle monorail.  Grant also appears to be a bit crazy, the type of guy who will spontaneously start to shout about everything that he views as being wrong with the world.  However, Grant is also very sincere in his desire to do the best for the people of Seattle and Phil agrees to manage his campaign.

And, as Grant continues to campaign and as the city’s political establishment goes out of its way to make it difficult for Grant or any other insurgent to run a legitimate campaign, he starts to pick up support and suddenly, it starts to look like he very well could win.

And then, the World Trade Center is attacked on September 11th and suddenly, the voters are a little bit less enthusiastic about handing the keys to the asylum over to one of the inmates…

Grassroots is a minor film but it’s definitely likable.  It took me a while to adjust to the film, largely because almost all of the characters are the type of stereotypical Seattle hipsters who would probably be used for violent comic relief in most other films.  (Don’t misunderstand, though — some of my best friends are hipsters … though they’ll never admit it.)  As well, the film trots out the familiar trope of having the campaign cause friction in Phil’s marriage and seriously, is there a more tired plot point than sudden marital friction?

But, ultimately, the film won me over because, much like Grant, it’s just so sincere in its love for Seattle and in its belief in grassroots politics.  It won’t challenge Milk for the title of being the most inspiring recent film about a city council election.  But, taken on its own terms, Grassroots is a likable movie that should inspire even more hipsters to run for public office.