Mitt | BYU Studies


Section and Issue
Film and Theater Review
Product Attributes
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Los Gatos, California: Netflix Original, 2014


Reviewer Hunter Phillips

Independent of political ideology, the 2012 election signified the apex of the "Mormon Moment," a period during which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints occupied a greater space in the public consciousness than perhaps ever before. This moment was defined largely by Republican candidate Mitt Romney, arguably the most wellknown Mormon to those outside the Church. His ascendance to the presidential nomination was a historic moment for the Church and its members, for whom national relevance represents a major shift in their self-awareness. Despite his own ubiquity during the election cycle, Romney remains an enigma to the average American. However, his inscrutable nature never appears to be a plea for privacy—the man has spent most of his adult life in the public sphere. Rather, at face value, he appears to simply be a respectable figure, a competent, seasoned politician and family man without any exceptional flaws or attributes. In the world of politics where tabloid drama and Hollywood flair are increasingly expected, Mitt Romney is sometimes seen as, in a word, boring.

This is the dilemma Greg Whiteley—an alum of the Brigham Young University film department and director of New York Doll—faced when collecting footage gathered from 2006 to 2012 to create the documentary Mitt, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014. Whiteley had a responsibility not only to accurately portray Mitt Romney as a man and politician but also to bring out his humanity in the process. The documentary takes on the challenge of making an audience care about someone who does not necessarily matter much to their future. Mitt is a film focused on introducing Americans to the private side of a man who, chances are, will not have such a momentous public life once again. History indicates that, with a few notable exceptions (such as Al Gore), the losers of presidential elections fade into footnote-dom. Whiteley takes this struggle on, and he seems to have played some part in Romney's recent political resurgence. While the film condenses six years of political history into a ninety-minute package, the result is actually perfunctory in its politics. The film is most enlightening in its moments of private contemplation.