The decade's most triggering comedy
Some tasks are nearly impossible. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Throwing a fastball north of 100 mph.
Giving Donald Trump a fair shake in a documentary.
Movies like Dinesh D’Souza’s “Trump Card” and, more commonly, “#Unfit,” “You’ve Been Trumped” and Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” arrived with built-in mission statements.
Trump good. Trump bad. Trump Hitler 2.0.
“Trump’s Rosebud” offers something different. Truly.
Robert Orlando’s documentary looks at the former president through a curious lens. Trump’s favorite film is “Citizen Kane,” a tale loosely based on media mogul William Randolph Hearst. The 1941 classic is often considered the greatest movie ever made.
Why would Trump pick the film as his personal favorite? More importantly, what is Trump’s “Rosebud,” the elusive part of his past that speaks volumes about his pugnacious spirit?
Orlando indulges in some Michael Moore-style tics, inserting himself into the narrative much like the far-Left provocateur often does. The focus, however, remains on the titular Trump.
The experts aligned to give depth to Trump’s life and career all lean to the Right, no doubt, but they range from all-out sycophants (Sebastian Gorka) to public servants who saw the best and worst of Trump up close (Former Attorney General Bill Barr).
Rounding out the talking head lineup? Blaze TV’s Steve Deace, a fierce Trump critic who still grasps why the GOP darling holds sway over the party.
“Clearly, Trump had a Kane-like drive for fame and attention,” Orlando says, backed by Barr noting the president was often his own worst enemy.
It’s a trip down memory lane, but it’s all recent enough to seem deeply familiar. Yet Orlando’s framing makes the trip worth our while, even if it leaves us deeply worried about the future.
The movie reminds us of the devastating, Deep State attacks on Trump’s presidency and how he repeatedly stuck his foot in his mouth along the way. The press made some of those attacks stick, a Fake News shark with teeth.
It’s why many fell in love with him in the first place.
“Part of his media savvy was a counter-cultural thing,” Barr notes of Trump’s frequent battles with the press.
We also see a greatest hits medley of Trump “destroying” his GOP rivals during the 2016 primaries, a master class in labels and narrative.
Orlando’s film makes smart use of black and white imagery. We see old-school TVs stacked atop one another, a nod to the past and our current, suffocating media landscape. He supplements grainy clips with graphic novel illustrations of Trump and others, creating a tapestry of black that belies its modest budget.
“Trump’s Rosebud” leaves out plenty of the real estate mogul’s foibles, from the endless array of cruel Tweets to misogynistic slights against women like journalist Megyn Kelly. That could have weighed the film down, though, and those infamous battles are already part of the culture’s DNA.
You don’t walk away from the film thinking Trump is anything close to a saint. Hardly.
What the documentary explores is why Trump behaves as he does, why his very worst instincts also bleed into his best political skills. Barr notes how the president’s dogged mien can work to his advantage, like how he refused to give up on future Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh despite a relentless attack machine fueled by spurious accusations.
Barr can’t help but admire that tenacity, but it’s the same stubborn streak that gets him into trouble again and again.
What “Trump’s Rosebud” does is show why the real estate mogul ascended to the presidency when he did and how his curious skills proved so beneficial on the campaign trail.
“Rosebud” notes how other politicians would have turned and run at many points in Trump’s contentious days in the Oval Office. Day after day. False media report after false media report.
Not Trump. He thrived on it, be it the attention it gave him or the chance to fight back.
He never quits, never tires. Barr admits it’s a fascinating personal tic, and one that cuts both ways.
Those traits proved calamitous during the recent pandemic. His blustery touch was no match for a global threat like no other.
The film’s not-so-secret weapon is Barr, who worked closely enough with Trump to assess him in a fair manner. Trump slimed Barr on the way out, too, but Barr’s lawyerly pose allows him to call balls and strikes in a way that helps the viewer. The days of settling grudges in the public arena are behind Barr.
Trump makes it impossible for a consensus to form on anything he touches, including a documentary purporting to be fair and balanced. For now, “Trump’s Rosebud” is a clear-eyed testament to a fascinating figure, one that brings both clarity and balance to the subject.
And, chances are, few will agree with that summation.
What’s less up for debate? That Trump was and remains a symbol, and how his presence suggests the United States’ current divisions will only get worse.
To watch Trump’s Rosebud visit: www.trumpsrosebud.com
Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.