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Strangers in a strange land

'Rated R: Republicans in Hollywood' finds liberalism rampant in the entertainment industry. Is that really such a revelation?

September 14, 2004|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

The thesis of "Rated R: Republicans in Hollywood" is that with a few notable exceptions -- including a former president and a current governor -- the political involvement of the entertainment industry tilts to the left.

Well, duh. Has documentarian Jesse Moss any more revelations? The position of the sun, for example, when it rises in the morning?

In the style of Michael Moore -- geeky liberal filmmaker goes to confront the rich and powerful -- but with much, much gentler intentions, "Rated R" seeks out Republicans in the land of liberalism and asks them how they survive. Moss worked for the Clinton-Gore campaign and later for a Democratic member of Congress.

Drew Carey says he's sure his conservative views have cost him some jobs. He protests, slightly, that he's really more of a libertarian than a conservative: "I describe a libertarian as a conservative who still gets high."

Emmy-winning Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") tells of the reaction she got when she let drop at a dinner party that she supports President Bush. Trust me, you will remember her description.

Director-screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd ("DC 9/11: Time of Crisis") says the level of anti-Republican vitriol among the entertainment set is shocking. "You have no idea how much people out here hate George Bush," he says. "People look at me as if I'm kind of diseased." The comic style may be that of the maker of "Fahrenheit 9/11" -- particularly the use of old clips and jaunty, mocking music -- but Moss lacks Moore's hard edge and self-righteousness.

At the end as he is seen on a plane back to Washington, Moss admits he even liked some of the conservatives he met, although he disagrees with them politically. Indeed, most of the interview subjects come off well.

Moss seems charmed by Ben Stein, the actor and comedian who once was a Nixon speechwriter, and by the former Catholic nun who runs a writing program for aspiring Christian filmmakers. Both are allowed to state their views without being chopped by editing or backlit to look sinister.

"Mainstream in Hollywood means anti-life, anti-business, anti-military, anti-Republican, anti-religion," Stein says.

By comparison, director John Milius and critic/talk-show host Michael Medved look awful. Milius complains of being blacklisted after "Red Dawn." He comes off like a bore.

And Medved gets trapped in his own verbal web when he begins to complain about "embedded" messages in TV shows and movies, particularly those that show gays as universally hip and good. (Apparently he's forgotten about those gay street toughs in "Seinfeld" who kept terrorizing Jerry and his pals.)

Moss may have been trumped by filmmaker and Bush family friend Vincent Gallo ("Buffalo 66"). Gallo unwinds a long explanation of the cultural significance of Super Bowl III, Jets versus Colts, and how he preferred crew-cut Johnny Unitas to libertine Joe Namath.

When Gallo, with half-day beard and stringy, gel-laden hair, tells us, "I wish I looked more like George Will," the filmmaker may be right to feel a tug on his leg.

The frame of "Rated R" is Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign for governor and its media-blitz bus trip in the final days before the election. To a California eye, at least, it seems stale, and Moss does not seem to have an original take on the Arnold phenomena.

The subject matter of "Rated R" is easy stuff and Moss makes little effort to do more than repeat what others have found. If you're looking for a discussion of whether it matters what Hollywood thinks politically -- Medved says it does -- you'll be disappointed.

Some counter-interviews with Hollywood liberals might have helped. What do Martin Sheen and Susan Sarandon think about the complaints of their conservative co-workers? "Rated R" doesn't tell us.

And then there is the failure to get several prominent conservatives to talk. "Rated R" runs a list of turndowns, including professional wrestler the Rock and actress Heather Locklear.

How can any TV show without Heather Locklear be taken seriously? It makes you feel so unworthy.

*

'The AMC Project: Rated R: Republicans in Hollywood'

Where: AMC

When: 10 tonight

Rating: TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children)

Written and directed by Jesse Moss. Produced by Jesse Moss of Mile End Films

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