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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Movie Review - Best of Enemies

Best of Enemies (2015)
Directed by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

I had perhaps vaguely heard of the rivalry between conservative Christian William F. Buckley, Jr., and liberal writer Gore Vidal during the 1968 presidential cycle, but my knowledge of their political tête-à-tête was close to nil.  A war of words that changed the way news organizations covered politics, Best of Enemies details the ten contentious battles between the two pundits that was waged on ABC in the lead-ups to the Republican and Democratic national conventions that year.

At its heart, as is stated by a commentator in Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon's documentary, the argument between Buckley and Vidal was about lifestyle -- who should we be.  What should the image of America be?  Buckley stood for morals and standards whereas Vidal (who at that point was well known for being boundary-pushing) desired a more open, carefree concept of living.  Prior to the debates, Buckley did very little research expecting to be able to walk all over his competition, while Vidal did a ton of homework, desiring to make Buckley look like an old racist, sexist, and out-of-touch member of the political system.  To this reviewer, while both Buckley and Vidal were self-centered individuals, Vidal's sole purpose of attempting to sully Buckley's name was hideously prickish.  Quite frankly, based on what is said about Vidal in the piece, he'd likely agree with that name-calling of mine.

While surprisingly entertaining and well-presented, I admit that I began to get a little bored as the second half of Best of Enemies rolled around.  While the film does a thorough job of painting a picture of Buckley, Vidal, their beliefs, and their distaste for one another, it doesn't succeed fully in depicting how these ten debates changed the media landscape which is a task it absolutely sets out to do initially.  Still, considering I had no real connection with this aspect of political media from our past, for it to hold my interest for as long as it did and be at least moderately compelling all the way through is a credit to the way the story is presented in this documentary.  While I certainly won't be recommending this to the Average Joe, those interested in this sort of thing should note that Best of Enemies is well done.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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