Film Review: Roseanne for President!

As invigorating, profane and downright honest as the subject herself, this doc follows an iconic performer on her dubious, rather divine, campaign trail.
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Hey, sign me up. As improbable as it may sound at first blush, there could be far worse candidates for so-called Leader of the Free World than Roseanne Barr. In fact, as this spirited, smart, attractively modest and, unsurprisingly, very funny doc by Eric Weinrib proceeds, you may well find yourself thinking there could be few better candidates, as one of the touchstones of Barr’s 2012 presidential run was, indeed, freedom. Yes, freedom to speak out, to freely smoke her beloved marijuana, and to choose, as in not choosing to pay taxes which would not bring average Joes free healthcare but, instead, bail out bankers so, as the comedian smirks, “they can cover their fourth wife in the skins of endangered species.”

Roseanne for President! also acts as a loosey-goosey biography of the star, from her Jewish-descendant-of-Holocaust-victims roots in Salt Lake City, of all places, to her rise as a straight-talking standup comedian representative of the 1980s proletariat and self-dubbed “domestic goddess,” and her decade-long eminence as Queen of All Media, addressing difficult issues—homosexuality, abortion, blue-collar financial struggles, etc.—on her titular TV series (“well before Oprah,” as she avers). The very worthy and groundbreaking series jumped the shark and finally ended and her career subsided, especially in the wake of an outrageously awful performance of the National Anthem at a baseball game.

Much of the film captures her idyllically at home in Hawaii, joshing and bossing around with her smart, mellow and very simpatico partner, Johnny Argent (her only mate mentioned here), her daughter and adorable grandson. Her decision to go into politics stemmed from her lifelong, resolute outspokenness against various injustices going on in our country and, urged by compatriots, she threw her hat in the presidential ring as a Green Party candidate. Many thought it a mere ridiculous stunt, but she backed up her decision with fired-up, profanity-laden, inspiring speeches that had at least this viewer kind of loving her. As just about all the gathered interviewees—Michael Moore, Tom Smothers, Sandra Bernhard, Rosie O’Donnell, her own brother and lovely mother—attest, it is her sheer authenticity that both fuels her and draws people to her. And with things the way they are right now, a series like “Roseanne”is needed more than ever.  (Although the doc is in no way meant to be definitive, the absence of her equally brilliant TV co-star John Goodman is conspicuous.)

On the campaign trail, the star proves herself sharp, informed, terrifically communicative, a stone bitch at moments and always in need of coffee. She lost the Green Party election and was somewhat less than a good loser, obscenely excoriating it all as a passel of elitist San Francisco yuppies. I do, however, hope that she isn’t through with politics forever, as she’s the rare person who could speak truth to power—having weathered, as she says, network honchos and the like—and would bring some real humor to Washington and never lie to the American people. One somehow hesitates to think that last quality could be applied to the current, most prominent candidate for our first female president. More than any TV show, what we very well may need is her.

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