Trailer for Outrage
The California State Supreme Court just upheld Proposition 8, denying gay people the right to marriage. This should disabuse the complacent of the illusion that the religious right has relinquished its death grip on America. So, too, should Kirby Dick's documentary about the homophobic power of closeted right-wing politicians in America.
|Outrage | Written and directed by Kirby Dick | With James Mcgreevey, Dan Popkey, David Catania, Elizabeth Birch, Michael Rogers, Dan Gurley, Andrew Sullivan, Barney Frank, Michelangelo Signorile, Larry Gross, Larry Kramer, Wayne Barrett, David Rothenberg, Tony Kushner, Jim Kolbe, Dina Matos Mcgreevey, And Tammy Baldwin | Magnolia | 90 Minutes | Kendall Square + Coolidge Corner|
Or maybe not. It starts boldly enough, with an ominous prologue proclaiming that there exists "a brilliantly orchestrated conspiracy" in the media to protect these powerful hypocrites from disclosure. It goes on to argue, through a small army of left-wing talking heads, that these self-loathing gay leaders (mostly Republicans, but with a token Democrat or two) are spearheading a crusade against gay rights.
Okay, you've got our attention. But what we really want to know is — who's queer?
That's the problem with Dick's documentary: it promises a polemic about an anti-progressive conspiracy, and it also teases us with tabloid-like revelations. It disappoints on both counts, not making its case about any conspiracy and not digging up much real new dirt. All the same, it's essential viewing for anyone interested in justice in this country.
Dick doesn't try anything fancy — there's nothing like the reflexivity of his previous documentary, This Film Has Not Been Rated. He cuts to the chase, opening with a recording of the police interrogation of Idaho senator Larry Craig after Craig was arrested for solicitation. No media cover-up there, as the following montage of news reports on the story indicates. But Dick goes deeper, interviewing Idaho Statesman reporter Don Popkey, whose inquiries into Craig's double life, conducted years before the arrest, had been largely ignored or decried. Further evidence of a conspiracy includes two snippets from a Larry King show: in the first, Bill Maher "outs" former RNC head Rob Mehlman, and in the second, censored version, the name is snipped out. Then there's a clip from Fox News in which Shepard Smith blurts out the phrase "blow job" — "proof" that the media are in "don't ask, don't tell" mode because they're all gay themselves and don't want anyone to find out.
In short, the case Dick makes for his central argument is not rigorous. As for the names named, they're the already outed (Craig), or repentant Democrats (former New Jersey governor James McGreevey), or contrite Republicans (former Arizona congressman Jim Kolbe), or converted to the cause (former RNC field director Dan Gurley), or not worth mentioning.
With one major exception: Florida governor Charlie Crist, who's been touted as the GOP presidential nominee in 2012. That's the kind of information that provides a service, though Crist's sexual ambiguity has already been bruited on various outlets of the mainstream and other media.
Otherwise, Outrage could do with less of McGreevey getting teary-eyed as he recalls a moment of truth at his grandmother's grave, or of his ex-wife talking about being a beard. Instead, it could have been tapping into the zeal of activists like Michael Rogers (of the outing Web site BlogActive.com) who describe their motivation as anger — at hypocrisy, at "traitors," at wrongs that go unexposed and unpunished. Rage, in other words: that's what this film could use a little more of.