But she was also one of the few candidates pushing for a legitimately progressive agenda: her platform addressed single-payer healthcare, income inequality, and marijuana legalization. Or, as she puts it to a music festival crowd, “WE WANT MARIJUANA FUCKIN’ LEGAL!” You gotta give her this much: she still knows how to play to a crowd.
Director Weinrib makes some wise choices, particularly with regards to her biography; he weaves in the archival footage like flashbacks, putting in enough to remind us of exactly how big she was, but not so much to overtake the movie. (We remember who she is; that’s why we’re seeing the film.) That said, a lot of the more troublesome stuff in her past gets left out, and he seems reluctant to press on some of her wilder statements, though he does use on-screen graphics to occasionally (and entertainingly) call her on her bullshit.
It’s worth noting that Barr is credited as executive producer for the project, though in a Q&A following the film’s premiere at Tribeca Saturday, she claimed her involvement in the final product was fairly minimal. “I think that I gave Eric a wide berth, and I called him back from the edge several times,” she said, but told Weinrib, “I like the movie that you made. Y’know, there’s things that I… I’m sure you’ll hear from my lawyers afterwards…”
Roseanne did see the work in progress, though she cracked, “He tried to wait ‘till the end, until I couldn’t do nothin’ about it… I told him, ‘I don’t want you to put any of me smoking pot in there,’ because I thought that would insult the people who voted for me. But in the end I ended up letting him show it. And if I go to fuckin’ prison, man, it’s your ass.”
Those flourishes aside, the real takeaway from Roseanne for President — beyond personality documentary, behind campaign chronicle — is that the main thing Barr stood for as a candidate was the one thing all of her celebrity and/or notoriety couldn’t muster: an actual additional choice on the ballot, a viable alternative to the bought-and-sold two-party system. In the Q&A, I asked her if we’re just plain screwed; it speaks volumes to her ultimate faith in the power of the people that even after the experience, she’s still optimistic.
“Well that’s kinda why I wanted to make this movie,” she explained, “because I wanted to tell people: you can have whatever you want. You can get it if you really want it, but you have to try and try and work towards it. This country’s in bad trouble because the one thing that can get it the fastest is if we all, like, unite across these different divisions that they put up for us — and they’re all artificial, except class. If we could all unite across those differences, man, we’d have exactly what we wanted real fast… So I wanted this movie to encourage you all to participate in the democratic process. Because it works, if you get in there and work it. Just like AA.”
Roseanne for President screens this week at the Tribeca Film Festival.