"How did it get so bad?" asks the narrator of Patriocracy after a prefatory montage that intercuts C-SPAN showboating from the chamber floor with a prayer by the House chaplain, a contrast meant to throw the congressional dysfunction into stark relief. In answering this question, director Brian Malone's strenuously "nonpartisan" documentary cites the impatience of an electorate whose most vocal constituents are also its most ideologically extreme; the fact that Congress has become, in the words of CBS News' Bob Schieffer, "a group of strangers"; and the rising influence of corporations and special interests. (Alan Simpson—an ex–Republican senator from Wyoming, Obama's fiscal-responsibility-commission appointee, and by far the most colorful of the film's many current- and former-lawmaker talking heads—calls Citizens United "madness.") Malone reveals himself to have a stunningly low opinion of his audience's powers of bullshit detection. After pointing out that some websites disguise opinions as facts, he gives us a Missouri School of Journalism professor who analyzes segments from Fox News and Keith Olbermann and notes that such programs have all the "trappings" of a newscast but are in effect "entertainment shows about news." The rest is just as enlightening, if marginally less insulting, as a debt-ceiling-crisis recap gives way to a rush of proposed fixes to the system.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.