'Primary Colors' A Judgment On A Political Generation
By Bill Schneider/CNN
WASHINGTON (March 19) -- This year's most eagerly anticipated political movie, "Primary Colors," opens this weekend. But there was no Washington premiere, and the studio didn't screen it for political reporters, we're told, because they don't want the movie to be seen as "too political." Kiss of death.
Apparently no one wants to see a "political" movie. Well, we do. So we did the next best thing: we read the screeenplay. And we have some clips from the movie to share with you, political moviegoers.
Let's get the big question out of the way: Is Governor Jack Stanton Bill Clinton? You betcha. All that charm, that seductiveness, that political talent. Making a campaign stop at a factory, Stanton tells the workers, "I'm going to do something really outrageous. I'm gonna tell the truth."
And all that recklessness. Like Clinton, Stanton and his less-than-pleased wife must weather the accusations of an extramarital affair in order to reach the White House.
And is Susan Stanton Hillary Rodham Clinton? What do you think?
In one scene, Mrs. Stanton tells a campaign aide, "Jack Stanton could also be a great man if he weren't such a faithless, thoughtless, disorganized, undisciplined s---." And she rattles off this rather uncomplimentary characterization while standing next to her husband.
The guessing games are fun, but this movie does have a larger political message. Not just about the Clintons. About the corruption of a generation -- the baby boom generation. A generation that got into politics because of idealism, civil rights, Vietnam and Watergate. And that slowly, over time, has accepted the small compromises and corruptions that define the real world of politics and life.
In the movie, Stanton is not just reckless. He -- and his supporters -- are also ruthless. In strategizing damage control for dealing with the campaign's 'bimbo eruption,' longtime Stanton loyalist Libby Holden theorizes, "She can't hurt us. She's selling a story. She has no proof. She has no credibility. It's bulls---."
But ... "She's the tip of the iceberg," Holden continues. "Our Jackie has done some pretty stupid things in his life. He's poked his ---- in some sorry trash bins. We've got to stop 'em. Before they stop us. We've got to crush 'em. Sweep 'em up. From now on, you can call me the dustbuster."
Sure, the Stantons sell out. But so do the voters. Stanton uses the people. But the people also use him to get what they want. And they set aside his character flaws.
Idealism and corruption. This movie sees them as a package. It tarnishes the Stantons. It kills another character. And it lures young Henry Burton, who's from the next generation, to serve as campaign manager.
"It must have been very different when my grandfather was alive," Burtons tells Mrs. Stanton. "Hey, you were there. You had Kennedy. I didn't. I've never heard a president use words like 'destiny' and 'sacrifice' without it being bull. And, okay, maybe it was bull with Kennedy too, but ... but, people believed it. And, I guess, that's what I want. I want to believe it."
Henry stays with Gov. Stanton because, as he puts it, "I think this guy could be the real thing." Well, he is.
At the end of the movie, Susan Stanton says, "We were young. We didn't know how the world worked. Now we know." Director Mike Nichols calls that the "killer moment" in the movie.
It's also the movie's judgment of a whole political generation.