Romney minutes before the 2012 White House Correspondent's dinner. "It's nice to finally relax and wear what Anne and I wear around the house," he'd joke at the dinner.
The biggest competition in the world is not the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, Wimbledon or boxing’s heavyweight championship of the world—it is the race for the presidency of the U.S.A.
No other event impacts so many people’s lives in and out of America, and Mitt, a fascinating documentary directed by Greg Whiteley and streaming exclusively on Netflix since January 24 (it was supposed to start at 11 a.m. Pacific, noon Central, but as of 12:35 p.m. Central it wasn't happening and Netflix users began to get restless until it finally posted at 23 p.m. Central), shows the unparalleled level of stress achieved by men—and their families—striving to become the world’s most powerful person.
More importantly, Mitt is a surprisingly candid, honest and never-before-seen second look at a man that went down in history as a flip-flopper willing to say anything at anytime to win an election. Unlike the brilliant, Oscar-nominated The War Room, which presented President Clinton surrounded by campaign aids, Mitt shows Romney unfiltered, in the intimacy of his own family and coming across as a warm family man conscious of his strengths and weaknesses as a candidate, willing to joke about himself and at times even trying hard to hold back tears.
But Mitt isn't about Whiteley's attempt to "vindicate" Romney in any way. The filmmaker was granted rare access to Romney the candidate in the 2008 Republican primaries and followed the Massachusetts governor all the way to his 2012 defeat to President Obama, simply showing, cinéma vérité-style, what took place behind the scenes. If you're not instantly hooked by the first scene showing Romney and his family realizing there was no way Obama wouldn't be re-elected, you might as well skip Mitt. If you love history and are passionate about the way democracy works in America, watching Mitt will have you wondering what would've happened in 2012 if Romney had stuck to his guns (for example, he wanted to stress the fact that "Washington is broken," but his campaign kept telling him to emphasize talks about "change," as if Obama hadn't owned the term) and shown himself as he did in the documentary.
Whiteley is obviously friendly towards the Romney family, and there is a reason he was granted such an intimate access, but at no time does the film feel like a hagiography. We see the "bad" Mitt we're accustomed to ("The higher the chair, the better I'm going to feel," he said before the 2008 New Hampshire primary), denial-mode Mitt (he still can't understand why they call him a flip-flopper), humble Mitt ("I'm a flawed candidate," referring to his inability to change people's perception about him) and smart Mitt ("He'll come back stronger in the second debate," he said after his triumphant first face-off with Obama).
But the most revealing moments that show Romney at his best (the all-business type) take place during his crushing defeat. After a few seconds of shock (many conservatives believed Dick Morris' bogus prediction of a landslide Romney victory), the losing but practical candidate, as if somewhat relieved that finally it was all over, basically tells his family to cut the crap and stop trying to cheer him up—it was time to call the President.
"This is no time for soothing," he told the family while trying to come up with the perfect concession speech even though his campaign was urging him to "wait." "This is important."
Paul Ryan only appears a few seconds on the screen, and the pair couldn't be more contrasting: Ryan's apparent confidence seems calculated, while Romney's tense vulnerability feels real and transparent. Who would've thought? After two failed campaigns (the second a disastrous one) and the feeling that Ryan was stealing the spotlight from Romney, Mitt shows that Mitt, after all, was the real one of the two.