Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Cannes Review: Gaspar Noé's Hardcore And Softhearted 'Love' Cannes Review: Gaspar Noé's Hardcore And Softhearted 'Love' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Cannes Review: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's 'The Assassin' Is An Epic Visual Poem Cannes Review: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's 'The Assassin' Is An Epic Visual Poem The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever Roger Deakins To Shoot Denis Villeneuve's 'Blade Runner' Sequel Roger Deakins To Shoot Denis Villeneuve's 'Blade Runner' Sequel More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image Simon Pegg Worries That Adults Obsessed With Comics & Sci-Fi Have Become "Infantilized By Our Own Taste" Simon Pegg Worries That Adults Obsessed With Comics & Sci-Fi Have Become "Infantilized By Our Own Taste" Cannes Review: Denis Villeneuve's 'Sicario' Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin And Benicio Del Toro Cannes Review: Denis Villeneuve's 'Sicario' Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin And Benicio Del Toro George Miller Says He Courted Heath Ledger To Lead 'Mad Max' In 2006, Reveals Title For 'Fury Road' Sequel George Miller Says He Courted Heath Ledger To Lead 'Mad Max' In 2006, Reveals Title For 'Fury Road' Sequel Watch: Michael Fassbender Takes The Stage In First Trailer For 'Steve Jobs' Watch: Michael Fassbender Takes The Stage In First Trailer For 'Steve Jobs' George Miller Says 'Interstellar' Came Close To What His Version Of 'Contact' Would've Been Like George Miller Says 'Interstellar' Came Close To What His Version Of 'Contact' Would've Been Like New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'Sarah Palin: You Betcha!' Is A Surprisingly Toothless Bore

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist September 29, 2011 at 6:02AM

Nick Broomfield is a British documentarian with a reputation for being boldly unafraid to ruffle people’s feathers. In films like “Biggie & Tupac” and, most notoriously, “Kurt and Courtney,” he seemed unconcerned with the status quo (or possibly lawsuits), making inflammatory claims and taking part in gleeful provocation, a welcome change of pace from the overtly mannered realm of current documentary filmmaking. Which makes “Sarah Palin: You Betcha!,” his new film about America’s one-time potential Vice President and former Governor of Alaska, so odd – it’s boring, toothless, and genial. Anyone (like me) smacking their gums in anticipation of the pointed evisceration Palin would receive from the guy who not-so-subtly suggested Courtney Love engineered Kurt Cobain’s death is going to be sorely disappointed.
7


Nick Broomfield is a British documentarian with a reputation for being boldly unafraid to ruffle people’s feathers. In films like “Biggie & Tupac” and, most notoriously, “Kurt and Courtney,” he seemed unconcerned with the status quo (or possibly lawsuits), making inflammatory claims and taking part in gleeful provocation, a welcome change of pace from the overtly mannered realm of current documentary filmmaking. Which makes “Sarah Palin: You Betcha!,” his new film about America’s one-time potential Vice President and former Governor of Alaska, so odd – it’s boring, toothless, and genial. Anyone (like me) smacking their gums in anticipation of the pointed evisceration Palin would receive from the guy who not-so-subtly suggested Courtney Love engineered Kurt Cobain’s death is going to be sorely disappointed.

To be fair, Broomfield has a co-director on this one, Joan Churchill (who seems to be the other cameraperson in this micro-budgeted production), which could explain the tonal mellowness. But that only goes so far. This movie is unfocused, shallow, and dull; strange considering Palin is easily Broomfield’s splashiest target thus far.


'You Betcha!' basically consists of Broomfield, the erudite Englishman, dressed as an Alaskan everyman (complete with mismatched plaids on both his jacket and hat), bumbling around Wasilla, Alaska, trying to get the truth out of various Palin family members, friends, co-workers, and hangers-on. You keep waiting for the scope to expand, for Broomfield to thoughtfully detail what could have happened if she had been elected Vice President, and what power she currently wields, both in the media and the increasingly volatile Tea Party movement, but instead whole chunks of the movie are devoted to watching Broomfield slip around on slick Alaskan ice. Incisive!

The main thesis of the movie seems to be that Sarah Palin is a bitchy, petty, dangerous woman who, whenever she ascended to the next rung of power, would cut away those she felt unimportant to her continued success, and immediately start attacking those didn’t fall in line with her way of thinking. Sometimes, the facts alone are genuinely shocking enough to get a rise out of you – the way she would unilaterally fire whole swaths of the town and state government, down to librarians. Broomfield does get to talk to the ex-brother-in-law at the center of the Troopergate scandal, his neck as big around as a monster truck tire, which is something of an exclusive, but just reiterates the points already made: Palin, in her cheerily sociopathic way, is not someone you want to mess with.

Breaking up the prolonged sections of half-assed Wasilla investigatory work, Broomfield travels to Egypt to talk to the one former friend of Palin’s who was actually willing to go on the record (a dubious claim at best). What’s more amazing than what she says about Palin (the same thing everyone else says about her), is this friend’s look – bubblegum-colored lipstick, a broad whoosh of fake eyebrows – proof that you can take the girl out of Wasilla, but you can’t take Wasilla out of the girl. Intermittently, too, we see Broomfield, in a “Roger and Me”-style quest, try to get on-the-fly interviews with Palin, mostly by attending book signings of her best-selling “Going Rogue.” The “climax” of the movie, which you see in the trailer, is Broomfield attempting to ask a question during a town hall meeting with Palin. He stands up and asks her if she thinks her political career is over. It’s a probing question, and one that the documentary never engages with.

There are a lot of things that are truly frightening about Sarah Palin – her attitudes towards academia, her vindictive personality, her religious zealotry, her connection to big corporations like Murdoch’s News Corp, and the way her bloody rhetoric has inspired conservative extremists like the ones that shot down representative Giffords in Arizona. These points are all touched on, fleetingly, but never given enough time to be thoughtfully and pointedly developed, to the point where you really feel the Palin threat (even if at this point she’s been mostly defanged and her political chances are virtually null).

'You Betcha!' also lacks the trashy sizzle of Broomfield’s earlier work. At one point he points out that the microscopic Wasilla (with a population of around 6,000) is the crystal meth capitol of Alaska. He doesn’t engage with why this is, or if Palin had anything to do with cracking down on drug use in her hometown. Instead, it’s just a throwaway line, meant to titillate for a moment and then recede. While the supposed infidelity of both Palins is briefly alluded to, we’re not even given the off-color accusations cheekily brought up by Joe McGinniss in his new book “The Rogue” – things like cocaine use and the conspiratorial thought that the Palins’ down-syndrome baby might not actually (biologically) be theirs.

More damning to Palin would have been if Broomfield had just edited together her most inexcusable remarks, partnered with politicians and pundits pontificating on what she would have done if she would assumed the power of Vice President. That would have been shocking, scary, and fun – and what’s more, it would have saved us the embarrassment of watching Broomfield slip around on ice for twenty minutes. [C-]

This article is related to: Documentarian, Review, Sarah Palin: You Betcha!, Nick Broomfield


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates