Anthony's Film Review

Sarah Palin: You Betcha! (2011)

A candid glimpse into the life, career, and psyche of the 2008 U.S. vice presidential candidate...

Sarah Palin. You either love her or hate her. But if there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that she's everywhere: mayor of her Alaska hometown of Wasilla, Governor of Alaska, U.S. vice presidential candidate for the 2008 election, author of the memoir Going Rogue, public speaker at various political events, and commentator in several media interviews. But who exactly is Sarah Palin? What drives this mysterious woman to do the things she does? Why do people either love her or hate her?

To explore this, British documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield travels to the snowy landscape of Alaska. With just himself, a microphone, and one or two crewmembers operating a camera, Broomfield begins interviewing a couple of people who knew Palin personally, including her parents Chuck and Sally Heath and former government officials of Wasilla. These moments set the stage for the film by pointing out Palin's biggest selling point: her ability to charm others. At first, the film looks as if it'll take a positive turn and only stick with Palin's good side.

But that suddenly changes. From there, the film's focus becomes clear. Sarah Palin may not be the good-hearted person her most ardent supporters say she is. Believe it or not, the town of Wasilla becomes very divided over opinions about Palin, even to the point where divorces in Wasilla have been filed because of such differences. Instead of gaining everyone's support, Palin seems to attract mainly evangelical Christians. In fact, she also appears to be anti-intellectual, as illustrated by her efforts to cut funding for libraries and museums, not to mention her erroneous comment about Africa being a country and not a continent and her infamously disastrous interview with Katie Couric in which she couldn't state what news sources she regularly consults.

Then there is the saga known as Troopergate, which is perhaps Palin's most egregious offense. It centers on Alaska state trooper Mike Wooten, who had been married to Palin's sister-in-law before they divorced. This enraged Palin so much that she, along with her husband Todd, devoted so much effort to find a way to get Wooten fired. This is a situation that ultimately hurt deputy commissioner Walt Monegan, who was told to fire Wooten but ended up terminated himself because of refusal to carry out the order. At this point, Wooten himself reveals to Broomfield the other important thing about Sarah Palin: she, as well as her family, are nice in public but are completely different people in private.

All in all, several people share their grievances about Palin in this film. A staff member for John McCain's presidential campaign tells Broomfield over the phone how difficult it was to work with Palin. Palin's top aide, Frank Bailey, doesn't really say too much here, though he had already written his memoir, Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin, that reveals Palin's dark side. The comment I think is most striking comes from a pastor who believes it is dangerous for Palin to be trusted with a button that would trigger nuclear war. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Sarah Palin: You Betcha! was released in only a few theaters, but I was lucky enough to be near one that screened it. Despite the film's fairly low budget, Broomfield has created something that is not technically inferior and manages to present plenty of interesting material. His narration is straightforward and engaging without being boring. It is true that this film mostly features what the public already knows about Palin, but it's still impressive that Broomfield gets his information firsthand by speaking to people who had been part of Palin's inner circle. So is this film extraordinary? Not really. But is it at least an interesting look at Sarah Palin's persona and career? You betcha.

Anthony's Rating:

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