One Bright Shining Moment: The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern
Directed by Stephen Vittoria
First Run, opens September 16, Quad
Exactly the sort of starry-eyed, bullet-spraying hyperbole that drains credibility from any brand of political discourse, Stephen Vittoria's exhaustive portrait of McGovern and his career leading up to the derailed 1972 presidential campaign may be useful as home-front history, if only it didn't rant, yowl, and wet its pants so much. McGovern's path into Nixon's brick wall is punctuated by looming labels CHAOS, DARKNESS, JOY, TRAGEDY, etc.; Amy Goodman's narration, though correct, has a petulant, Spanish Inquisition ring to it, only made more childish by the film's cheap idealization of the senator from South Dakota as some kind of pacifist Savonarola, overdue for canonization. (The titular grab from Lerner & Loewe is indicative.) The lesson learned by the Democratic Party in '72that an outspoken liberal with even a moderate sense of ethical integrity has a dead yellow dog's chance of becoming an American presidentis only reinforced, and so the attempts at applying the McGovern paradigm to today's struggles are dubious at best. The realitiesin corpses, limbs, and liesof Vietnam may be clearly dissected, but Norman Mailer's St. George and the Godfather is a far more entrancing version of the campaigner's tale.