You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Poliwood

Approach is somewhat messy and occasionally self-serving.

Beating up on Hollywood celebrities has become a favorite tactic on the right, which explains the allure of this Barry Levinson-directed project — rightfully billed as a “film essay” — exploring the fascinating nexus of showbiz and politics. Produced in conjunction with the Creative Coalition, “Poliwood” follows a group of actors to last year’s Democratic and Republican National Conventions, while providing Levinson (whose credits include “Wag the Dog”) ample time to ruminate about TV’s corrosive influence on politics. The approach is somewhat messy and more than occasionally self-serving, but there are still several worthwhile and thought-provoking moments.

Tim Daly — co-president of the coalition, and a producer on the film — leads a parade of celebrities to the conventions, with Levinson’s camera in tow. As Levinson notes, TV has transformed media into a circus that’s obsessed with celebrity; the question is how to participate without being painted as clowns.

To his credit, Levinson reaches out to an array of constituencies, from the celebs — some, like Matthew Modine, eager to remind us that many of them came from modest means — to ordinary citizens who resent these famous names leveraging their status to champion their views. The central moment comes when Levinson brings the stars together with a focus group conducted by ubiquitous Republican pollster Frank Luntz, as the participants rail against “limousine liberals” telling them how to live.

Levinson, however, makes an obvious point too often overlooked in this conversation — namely, that the media aggressively seeks out celebrities to lend sizzle to such spectacles, then abuses them for stating an opinion. It’s also questionable what actors or musicians are perceived to gain personally from speaking out, since as music producer/activist Danny Goldberg notes, “The dominant theory of career management is ‘Don’t offend anybody.’ ”

Some of the stars interviewed stress that they draw a sharp line between their careers and their passions. Anne Hathaway, for example, says she doesn’t promote movies when engaging in politics and won’t discuss politics while doing the interview circuit for a movie. Yet in an environment where former Vice President Al Gore is shown being asked of his Oscar attire, “Who do you have on?,” maintaining such lines of demarcation is difficult at best.

The main drawback of the “film essay” format is that Levinson affords himself a little too much face time to hold forth on these matters, even dredging up the Kennedy-Nixon debates to examine where the process went wrong.

Those indulgences notwithstanding, “Poliwood” is an intelligent look at the forces that have helped bastardize political discourse into a “We can’t talk anymore” free-for-all, while creating a sober, laid-back forum for celebrities to explain their activism. Like everything else in today’s echo-chamber-oriented media, however, such an exercise is unlikely to win hearts or change minds despite good intentions.

Poliwood

Showtime, Mon. Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.

Production: Produced by Screen Media Films and the Creative Coalition in association with Baltimore Pictures. Producers, Robin Bronk, Robert Baruc, Tim Daly, Jason Sosnoff; director, Barry Levinson;

Crew: Camera, Adam Jandrup, Aengus James; editor, Aaron Yanes; music supervisor, Linda Cohen. RUNNING TIME: 90 MIN.

More TV

  • Dolph Lundgren to Host Action-Movie-Inspired Contest

    Dolph Lundgren to Host Action-Movie-Inspired Competition Show ‘The Tower’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Beating up on Hollywood celebrities has become a favorite tactic on the right, which explains the allure of this Barry Levinson-directed project — rightfully billed as a “film essay” — exploring the fascinating nexus of showbiz and politics. Produced in conjunction with the Creative Coalition, “Poliwood” follows a group of actors to last year’s Democratic […]

  • Full Frontal with samantha bee

    Advertisers Start to Return to Samantha Bee's 'Full Frontal'

    Beating up on Hollywood celebrities has become a favorite tactic on the right, which explains the allure of this Barry Levinson-directed project — rightfully billed as a “film essay” — exploring the fascinating nexus of showbiz and politics. Produced in conjunction with the Creative Coalition, “Poliwood” follows a group of actors to last year’s Democratic […]

  • Samantha Bee Skewers Border Policy, Nielsen

    Samantha Bee Skewers Trump's Border Policy, Kirstjen Nielsen on 'Full Frontal' (Exclusive Video)

    Beating up on Hollywood celebrities has become a favorite tactic on the right, which explains the allure of this Barry Levinson-directed project — rightfully billed as a “film essay” — exploring the fascinating nexus of showbiz and politics. Produced in conjunction with the Creative Coalition, “Poliwood” follows a group of actors to last year’s Democratic […]

  • Handmaid's Tale Equality Now

    TV News Roundup: 'The Handmaid's Tale' Team Launches Women's Rights Campaign with Equality Now

    Beating up on Hollywood celebrities has become a favorite tactic on the right, which explains the allure of this Barry Levinson-directed project — rightfully billed as a “film essay” — exploring the fascinating nexus of showbiz and politics. Produced in conjunction with the Creative Coalition, “Poliwood” follows a group of actors to last year’s Democratic […]

  • Jonathan Tucker

    'Westworld' Actor Jonathan Tucker, 'New Girl' EP Liz Meriwether Join Talent Denouncing Fox News

    Beating up on Hollywood celebrities has become a favorite tactic on the right, which explains the allure of this Barry Levinson-directed project — rightfully billed as a “film essay” — exploring the fascinating nexus of showbiz and politics. Produced in conjunction with the Creative Coalition, “Poliwood” follows a group of actors to last year’s Democratic […]

  • SONOS PATRICK SPENCE

    How Smart-Speaker Maker Sonos Plans to Take on Apple, Google and Amazon

    Beating up on Hollywood celebrities has become a favorite tactic on the right, which explains the allure of this Barry Levinson-directed project — rightfully billed as a “film essay” — exploring the fascinating nexus of showbiz and politics. Produced in conjunction with the Creative Coalition, “Poliwood” follows a group of actors to last year’s Democratic […]

  • ABC News Paul Manafort

    ABC News Apologizes for Incorrect Paul Manafort Graphic

    Beating up on Hollywood celebrities has become a favorite tactic on the right, which explains the allure of this Barry Levinson-directed project — rightfully billed as a “film essay” — exploring the fascinating nexus of showbiz and politics. Produced in conjunction with the Creative Coalition, “Poliwood” follows a group of actors to last year’s Democratic […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content