If you thought Hillary Clinton has slipped into oblivion, just book a room at the same hotel she’s staying in.
The day before her appearance at the Television Critics Association press tour in January to promote the new movie “Hillary,” the former secretary of state’s presence was everywhere. At one point, Secret Service agents at Pasadena’s Langham Hotel seemed to outnumber the maids.
Right before the news conference the next morning, the moderator announced that the Q&A would not be followed by the usual “scrum,” an almost comical routine in which reporters storm the stage to get their 20 seconds of one-on-one time with the stars.
“I was sort of looking forward to the scrum,” Clinton said, eliciting some laughs.
The four-hour documentary, which premieres Friday on Hulu, is determined to expose that human side of a polarizing figure.
Filmmaker Nanette Burstein makes sure to include moments that would normally be left on the cutting-room floor: Clinton getting makeup applied, rehearsing a “Saturday Night Live” sketch with Kate McKinnon, doing an impression of former U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel. She’s more blunt in her criticism of Bernie Sanders than she ever has been. Through her lens, the Oscar-nominated director tries to show how political pressure and chauvinistic swipes robbed us of getting to know that version of Clinton.
If she has come across as a stiff, or even coldhearted, during her career, it’s only because we made her that way.
“I’m sorry if I’m not brilliantly charismatic on TV, but I am the same person I’ve always been,” Clinton says in the first of four episodes. “Going through this gantlet of unbelievable obstacles, yeah, you get scarred up a little bit.”
“Hillary” captures lots of moments on the campaign trail that male candidates would never face: Why are you wearing purple instead of more patriotic colors? You need to smile more! How dare you not leave that two-timing husband of yours!
New York Times reporter Amy Chozick summarizes the message she heard again and again while covering the 2016 presidential campaign.
“ ‘I want to vote for a woman, just not that woman,’ ” she says in the documentary. “Well, did 30 years of sexist attacks make her that woman?”
Burstein spends most of the project arguing that it did.
She leaves little time for a rebuttal. Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is one of the few Republicans to make an appearance, and he’s only around long enough to confirm that Clinton was a swell egg.
It’s up to Clinton to serve as her own harshest critic. You can imagine how that goes.
While she makes a number of apologies, there’s always a caveat. Yes, it was a mistake to lead the health care initiative in the ’90s, but that’s only because too many Americans weren’t ready for a first lady to assume so much power. Yes, maybe I should have left my dog of a husband after the Monica Lewinsky affair, but can you imagine how much heat you would have given me if I hadn’t stood by my man?
“Hillary” isn’t exactly a puff piece, but it’s not terribly interested in being objective, either. If you’re one of those who chanted “Lock her up,” you’re not suddenly going to give her the key to the city.
But for those who supported her presidential bid, or have been on the fence about her legacy, “Hillary” is a bit of revelation.
Turns out she’s likable enough — as long as the person behind the camera is an unabashed fan.