This is a documentary about the campaign of the youngest man to ever run for president of the United States. But because of who he is, it’s not as much about his canvassing and kissing babies as it is about who he’s doing it with.
Pete is fascinating and enlivened us, primarily because he represented a lot of firsts for this country. He was the most junior candidate to run, our first to be openly gay, and our first newlywed. It’s easy to see that people liked Pete because he was the exact opposite of the man in the office during the time he was running.
With sixteen Democrats running when he entered the race, his stability is questioned, even by Pete himself. The question is posed, ‘How can he stand out in the diverse and crowded group of Democrats?’ To this, I ask, ‘How could he not!?’ He’s nothing like the rest.
Throughout the documentary, we see plenty of people alluding to Pete Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, as often they do his politics. In some respects, that’s what gives the movie its charm, especially when we hear from Chasten himself. But it can also be seen, by some viewers, as inconsequential or arbitrary. If you want to know how Pete went from the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to a presidential nominee, it’s here in all its glory. If you don’t want to know about his personal life, this is one to skip as it’s covered extensively and very well. However, politics is definitely here, especially when we see him answer questions from reporters.
To one question from CNN, Pete responds, ‘We’d be well-served if Washington started to look more like our best run cities and towns rather than the other way around.’ It would be hard to disagree with him on that. Chasten says that Pete is a bit of an introvert, but we can see that he knows he has to be chameleon-like and adapt at certain times to make it through the race.
We switch gears to how the campaign is going and who is helping him run things. Chasten seems to have his fingers in every pie, but it’s director Liz Smith who really organizes things for Pete. Engaging to watch is when she and a few others attack him from various angles to prepare him for the Iowa Caucus. Also helping prepare him for Iowa are his many television appearances on shows such as Ellen, Colbert, Maher and Maddow. Not afraid of the other side, he even goes on Fox News to see what they have in store for him.
The group is ecstatic when they find out that their efforts have him sitting at number three in polling, directly behind Biden and Sanders, and his fundraising is above everyones at this point in time. Then comes debate day and the presidential hopeful and his staff get stuck in an elevator. That’s helpful for the nerves, I’m sure.
It’s here he admits to an audience that if he had been offered a pill to make him straight, he ‘Would have swallowed it before you had time to give me a sip of water.’ After getting to know him through this documentary, you can see where it’s a good thing he didn’t get that pill because he’d not be the man we know and love today.
Chasten worries when Pete brings the topic up because he thinks it sounds as if Pete has contemplated suicide. When Chasten voices his concern for the statement, Pete doesn’t say he hasn’t.
Candidates meet one another and talk, Pete speaks to and hugs his voters, and before you know it, it’s caucus day. While Pete is in the bathroom, he’s told that he’s in first place, something he feels is ‘an astonishing victory.’
Director Jesse Moss made this documentary, like “The Family” and “Boys State” before it, informative and moving. In his latest film, he not only shows us the ins and outs of a campaign but gives us an intimate look into the life of one of the most beloved candidates to come along in a long time.
I suspect that this will be watched repeatedly as a reference to one of the current presidential contenders, as well. With the success he had his first time around, I don’t think Pete will be going away anytime soon.
Director: Jesse Moss
Writers: Jeff Seymann Gilbert
Featuring: Chasten Buttigieg, Pete Buttigieg, Mike Schmuhl
Run Time: 1h 36m