I had a chance to preview the new movie about Sarah Palin called “The Undefeated,” the other week, when filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon hosted a few screenings on the eve of Memorial Day. My initial response? If enough people see the film, it could be a real game-changer for Palin’s presidential chances.
Aside from being well-produced, this film does a few things really well — all of which could make an impact if Palin runs for president.
First, it reminds you why you fell in love with Sarah Palin the first time. A lot of conservatives were tremendously excited when she was selected as John McCain’s running mate — and were even more smitten after her rousing GOP convention speech in Minneapolis. Over time, however, some conservatives fell off the bandwagon — partly because of the McCain campaign’s mishandling, partially because of the media’s portrayals, and partly for good reason. This film captures the emotional response — the hope and excitement — many Americans felt when she was selected. Don’t be surprised if some folks even tear up during the convention speech scene.
Putting emotion aside, the second thing this film does well is make the logical case for Palin to be taken seriously. Viewers who have never read “Sarah from Alaska” or “Going Rogue” may learn for the first time just how good she was as governor. Her short tenure as Governor of Alaska was remarkably strong (as the film points out, her approval rating was well over 80 percent when she was placed on the national ticket). Bannon spends a lot of time telling the story of Palin’s accomplishments as governor, and the truth is that few governors — even two-term governors — have ever had a better or more productive eighteen months than Palin had before her selection as McCain’s running mate. The film also does a good job explaining why Palin decided to step down. She lost a lot of folks when she made that decision — and the movie does a very good job of explaining her rationale.
Lastly — and you’re not hit over the head with this in the film — but this movie works because hers is, in essence, a terrific underdog story. Here you have a very normal person (the film opens with home video footage of a very young Sarah Palin) who has dramatic early success, but just as she reaches for the brass ring, someone pulls the rug out from under her. Can she make a comeback? Wait and see. There are ups and downs and heroes and villains and mistakes along the way. This is all great theater. I’m reminded of the original “Rocky,” when Apollo Creed decides to give a “nobody” a shot at the title. Everybody thinks Rocky is in over his head. After all, how can he beat the champ? But Rocky rises to the occasion (to me, the convention speech was the big “match”.) And, of course — as few recall — Rocky lost the first fight …