overall it’s an entertaining, informative and fairly cohesive look at california’s recall of governor davis, and subsequent election of arnold schwarzenegger, in 2003. i think it’s important to note that alex cooke is a british filmmaker and she definitely approaches the film as an outsider. as a californian this can sometimes be frustrating because there is some mild america-bashing (which i understand, but wish would come another american) and she sometimes paints a stereotypical picture of californians. also, i think that the film went a bit far in painting arnold as visionless and his campaign as reclusive. cooke makes a big point of showing the campaign as a PR/marketing campaign more than a political one. she points out (rightly) that arnold’s campaign was extraordinarily inaccessible to most reporters and ducked many of the tougher, or more specific, questions. arnold did do a lot of “i’ll have more specific plans when i get there” type of dodging and she was certainly right to call him on it. but, to be fair, there were deleted scenes (available on the dvd) that showed arnold on the campaign trail taking unrehearsed questions from people in the crowd. also, not included on the dvd, were the specific programs and policy decisions he proposed during the debate. cooke included that debate footage which bolstered her view that the recall/election situation was a circus – like him and huffington going back and forth – but she left out the substantive material that she claimed arnold lacked. i found this to be dishonest and misleading to anyone who isn’t as versed on the subject as i happen to be.
all that said, the film does a good job of espousing a fairly informed and right(as in correct)-minded opinion of the recall. sure it leaves out some of the more balancing information, but i’ve come to expect that from documentaries of this sort. cooke gets a pretty good sampling of opinions, so the truth is in there, it’s just that sometimes it’s buried a bit by her opinion as manifested in the amount of time she’ll give to certain footage. it’s sort of a poor english man’s version of fahrenheit 9/11 in california and as such should be viewed more as a documentary essay than as fact.