‘Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party’
Directors: Dinesh D’Souza, Bruce Schooley
Genre: Documentary, kind of
0 Globes (out of 5)
It is physically exhausting to watch “Hillary’s America.” The third and most insane filmic screed from neo-con troll Dinesh D’Souza is “The Room” of political cinema — a movie so jam-packed with uniquely ridiculous crap (and worse acting) that you’ll need an after-sex cigarette to recover. It’s a feature length Trump speech, where lies and distortions and inane reasoning and batty non-sequiturs fly so fast one can’t fact-check them all. The only sane response is to laugh; when it outgrosses summer comedies like “Neighbors 2” and “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” combined, it won’t be for lack of effort.
D’Souza is hardly a household name, and yet the conservative pundit, bestselling author and convicted felon has made two of the highest grossing documentaries in history. “2016: Obama’s America” and “America: Imagine the World without Her” (coming soon: “America America America America: America”) were each masterpieces of dog-whistling, hungry to activate the worst instincts in his party and weaponize his dupes against our current leaders. Like “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “2016” failed at the one thing it was created to do: to unseat a sitting president. This, even after it mounted the dubious argument that O was seeking to destroy white America in the name of his Kenyan father. (D’Souza, who is from India, thinks he can say the racist things all white people can’t because he wasn’t born here.)
Even before the rise of Trump, D’Souza was the guy who would say anything to defeat his perceived enemies. (He once wrote a book blaming liberals for 9/11 that even his colleagues thought was bull.) He’s at it again with “Hillary’s America,” which is split into two, not exactly conjoining parts. For the first hour he takes a lengthy dip into the Democratic Party’s unseemly past. Did you know that they, not the Republicans, were pro-slavery? You probably do. Title be damned, it’s no secret. Yet D’Souza pretends like he’s stumbled upon some buried historical text, not something you can find by clicking “I’m feeling lucky” on Google.
It wasn’t until the ’60s that the two parties switched ideologies, a turn D’Souza spends 30 seconds unconvincingly debunking. After all, he burned too much time on terrible actors in History Channel-on-a-bad-day re-enactments of, say, Andrew Jackson leading an afternoon lunch toast (“To the Democratic Party!”) while slaves are whipped in the background. He seems to think today’s Democrats are forever stained by their history, just as he says Saul Alinsky is not to be trusted because he grifted a couple sandwiches when he was young. The idea that you can’t change is an interesting one coming from a member of a party all about pulling one’s self up from the bootstraps. It’s especially rich coming from someone who in his last film said that America’s reputation shouldn’t be forever sullied because the founding fathers owned slaves.
Once D’Souza’s done painting LBJ as an n-word-dropping racist — will the same people who attacked “Selma” for disparaging him lay waste to "Hillary's America," too? — he abruptly jumps to the present to gorge upon Hillary’s past, which is no secret either. To D’Souza, she’s engaged in a long con worthy of Walter White. Her plan? (Which the onscreen D’Souza finds in a filing cabinet in an obscure office with the laughable label, “The Plan.”) Marry a sex fiend then ride that to the leader of the free world. It makes total sense: What better way to seduce the public than by roping in a guy who will get busted over and accused of untold affairs and abuses?
Unpacking D’Souza’s faulty logic isn’t hard, but it is tiring; there’s so much of it! A lot of what he says is factual; he just arrives at the dumbest, most self-serving conclusions. When he’s not laying out an argument with holes so big all of Marvel superheroes could fly through it, he’s tossing off offences with the ease with which one breathes air. He calls inner city ghettos “plantations,” then says he can do that because Obama did. He compares India to a prison. He makes gay panic jokes and race panic jokes, and in the same joke. He shows Thomas Jefferson about to bed a slave then remarks, “What is it about Democrats and innocent, young women?” When he inevitably gets to Hillary's biggest, still-undying bugaboo, he crows, "Now we know why she ignored calls for Benghazi: She couldn't figure out how to make a buck."
Far sillier offenses abound. Hillary is shown onscreen either played by a terrible actress in her younger years, laughing maniacally at Trickie Dick on a TV screen, or as an actress shot entirely from behind. (At one point she strolls angrily down a White House hallway and knocks a bunch of paper's out of some poor guy's hands.)Later, for some reason, he shows clips from the movie of “Evita,” and he concludes his salvo with not one but two hokey montages, one set to “God Bless America,” the other to “The Star Spangled Banner.”
D’Souza narrates the whole thing in a faux-naive drawl that screams passive-aggression. He plays dumb, asks rhetorical questions and generally treats his target audience like children who just learned to write their name in crayon. Often times he saunters into the picture itself, mostly to walk around looking at things with a hilarious fake-interested face. He’s not very charismatic or very likeable, even if you don’t strongly suspect he’s putting on a facade.
In fact, let’s pull a D’Souza and make a claim that’s dodgy, if not as dodgy as anything D’Souza has issued in three movies: It’s all an act. He’s not a moron making idiotic arguments. He’s a scholar, as he proudly boasts, and the former president of a university. He knows exactly what he’s doing, and what he’s doing is trying to scam a good portion of the country into believing his nonsense — all while painting Clinton, Obama and other liberals as little more than con artists. The irony can’t be lost on someone as smart as him. And if it is then he really is an idiot.