Movie #96 2021: The Reagan Show (2017)

Right, listen. I watched this purely because I’m a nerd. No other reason. Alas, I vowed to review every first watch I undertake, and this is no difference. Not interested in US Politics? Don’t read it. Seriously, I understand. As I said, I am a nerd and it won’t be for everyone.

The Reagan Show is a documentary that often plays out like an unrealistic, alternate reality episode of The West Wing. That’s how bizarre it is. Unlike many other documentaries on the topic, this one is made up entirely of archive footage – no interviews and no explanations. In short, the The Reagan Show lets the images speak for themselves. The main point of the documentary? To show how Reagan transformed the US presidency, how the media became such an integral part of US politics, and how the actor turned commander in chief presented his tenure as something of a performance. Pretty interesting… if you’re a nerd like me.

Serious question: Without Ronald Reagan, would there have ever been a Donald Trump in the Whitehouse? It’s a question we can never know the answer to, but there are some key moments in this film that suggest Trump took a lot of inspiration from the eighties supreme.

The truth is, Reagan paved the way for the modern presidency as we know it today. The Reagan Show does a fine job at demonstrating how Reagan’s acting background affected the incessant way his presidential terms were staged and documented on camera, and just how fickle the public can be. It was all just a publicity stunt and they fooled most of the country with it. Most worryingly, it’s easy to see why he was so successful.

As previously referred to, the documentary is made up of found footage, and these filmmakers truly let the evidence speak for itself. As a politics nerd however, there was relatively little here that I wasn’t aware of beforehand. Whilst the footage is impressively selected and compiled, the documentary focuses primarily on matters of the surface but doesn’t manage to scratch it. It could be said however that for those who know next to nothing about the guy, this would be a good place to start as an overall sweeping picture of the man in front of the camera.

Reagan’s always been a weird one for me: in terms of the Cold War and some potentially positive effects of Reaganomics, I find his time in office to be semi-decent… For a Republican, anyway. However, there are many policies and issues (especially the Iran-Contra scandal) that I cannot get on board with. In fact, any decent human being shouldn’t be able to get on board with some of the stuff he did, but that’s a matter of opinion I suppose. What I can say with some certainty is that The Reagan Show did absolutely nothing to help me figure out where I stand on the man, other than that it seems as though he was a puppet putting on a performance more than anything else.

On the whole, this is an okay attempt at breaking down the Reagan Era into bite size, understandable information that even the layman can grasp. Despite that, there’s nothing original or particularly comprehensive about it.

Interesting it may be, but it’s nothing more than entertainment. Which is exactly what could be said for the Reagan years, funnily enough.

The Reagan Show is available to stream on Sky Documentaries in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

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