Director John Wellington Ennis, like a growing number of Americans, is alarmed at the warping of American politics by corporate wealth. Unfortunately, in his documentary Pay 2 Play he keeps getting sidetracked in his pursuit of the causes and solutions by incredibly tangential distractions.
Academic Lawrence Lessig, through his exploding Mayday PAC, may be the only person in the film who’s actually positioned to address the corrupting influence of money on politics in a strategic and organized manner, but he gets only about 15 seconds of screen time.
Instead, there’s a crazy 10-minute digression into the litigious history of Parker Brothers’ Monopoly board game so tenuously related to the film’s purported concerns that the director has to connect the dots in voiceover. Pay 2 Play is a messy salad of disparate video sources, typefaces, and interview subjects, alternating scenes of street artists and Occupy protesters with slideshows enlivened by non sequitur Avid effects. Old-timey photos slide across the screen sounding like cars rushing past on the highway, or pop up with “ch-ching” noises. Talking-head interview segments are interspersed with C-SPAN footage, low-resolution Web video, and many, many zooms into the squares of a Monopoly board.
The film sprawls from Democratic challenges to Ohio’s awful Jean Schmidt to the Citizens United decision. One minute a political activist explains the creepy implications of corporate legal personhood; the next, Jerry fucking Springer illustrates the incumbent-protecting effects of Ohio’s redistricting. Pay 2 Play has good intentions and a total inability to focus, like Lindsay Bluth wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.