The first 72 minutes of The Final Year are terrific, if you love Obama. The rest of it is for the rest of us.
The documentary is now available for rental on Amazon Prime for 99 cents, and it’s worth at least twice that. Purportedly, it’s about the last 365 days of Obama’s foreign policy
disasters efforts. The filmmakers were given access to document Obama’s All-Stars at work: John Kerry, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, and — perhaps most amusingly — Iran Deal architect, Obama “mind meld” partner, and failed novelist Ben Rhodes.
The first hour or so is pretty rough going if you’ve never been a passenger on the Obama Train, so I’ll summarize it for you:
OMG OBAMA IS SO AWESOME OMG OMG CAN YOU BELIEVE HE’S NOT THE PRESIDENT ANYMORE WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO WITHOUT HIM OMG REMEMBER WHEN HE SAID THIS AMAZING THING AND THAT AMAZING THING AND WELL PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING HE SAYS IS AMAZING OMG AND EVERYBODY WHO WORKS FOR HIM IS SO DEDICATED AND THOUGHTFUL AND THEY KNOW THEY’RE RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING AND SO DO I AND I’M SURE THEY’D NEVER LIE TO ME AND OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG
I’m paraphrasing, of course, but that’s the gist of it. The documentary shows us Obama’s All-Stars on the job, and we listen to them explain their theories about how the world works and how proud they are to serve under a president who really gets it. I’m sure it’s all very comforting to anyone who’s under the delusion that these people had any idea what they were doing.
To anyone else, it’s excruciatingly dull. After the first hour or so, I was about ready to demand my 99 cents back. Jeff Bezos may be made of money, but I’m not.
But then, in the blink of an eye, the entire tone of the film changed. In an instant, it became much, much less difficult to watch. Suddenly, all the arrogance and pomposity of the previous 72 minutes was worth it. Suddenly, I was laughing out loud and clapping.
November 8, 2016.
You may have seen the following meme-worthy moment from the film, in which the documentarians stick a camera in Ben Rhodes’ face after he’s just gotten the final election results. We see his every twitch and nuance as he haltingly expresses his feelings about being so completely wrong.*
SPOILER: It is wonderful.
“Uh… I just came outside to try to… process all this… um… It’s a lot to, lot to process. I mean, uh… I, I can’t even… uh… I can’t, I… I mean, I… I… I can’t… I can’t, I can’t, I can’t put it into words. I don’t know what the words are.”
Keep in mind, this is Obama’s head foreign policy speechwriter. The word wizard. The world-changer.** And this is after we’ve spent an hour watching Rhodes repeatedly, and smugly, dismiss the very idea of a Trump victory. He almost makes me wish I’d voted for the guy.
The Final Year also shows us Samantha Power’s Election Night party, featuring such feminist luminaries as Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright. The evening begins jubilantly, as the partygoers congratulate each other and anxiously await history.
Then they get it. Good and hard.
They thought they knew everything. They thought they had it all figured out. To this day, they’re still trying to figure out how the rest of us failed them.
After watching this hagiography-turned-tragedy, I realized that for all the differences between Obama and Trump, they have one thing in common: They’re living proof that pretty much anybody can become POTUS if you run them against Hillary Clinton.
It’s too bad that the Oscar for Best Picture so rarely goes to a comedy. And of course, almost nobody in Hollywood finds it amusing that Hillary failed so completely. But since the Academy will never recognize the greatness of this film, I hereby award The Final Year a coveted Treacher Award for Best Picture (of a Failed Administration Grappling with Reality).
The Obama Cinematic Universe will continue on that new Netflix show he’s doing. Eight years of scolding was just the beginning, America.
*Admittedly, I was also completely wrong about Trump’s chances of winning. I also assumed Hillary was going to win. The difference is that, for all my criticisms and misgivings about the guy who defeated her: I was instantly relieved that she lost.
**MSNBC just hired Rhodes as a contributor, because of course MSNBC hired Rhodes as a contributor. (And tomorrow he’s excreting a memoir titled The World As It Is, because what else would he call it?) I hope this is just the beginning of a successful TV career. I would watch an hour a day of this guy just sputtering helplessly as his whole worldview is destroyed before his unbelieving eyes. MSNBC should really reach across the aisle and give conservatives something to enjoy.