A Perfect Candidate

Overview

A Perfect Candidate documents the 1994 Virginia senate campaign of Oliver North. Filmmakers R.J. Cutler (The War Room) and David Van Taylor (Dream Deceivers) take a look at North and his main opponent, Chuck Robb, but focus most of their attention on North's ruthless campaign strategists, Mark Goodin and Mark Merritt, and on Don Baker, a cynical Washington Post reporter who covers the campaign. North runs as a right-wing Christian candidate, and makes his professed faith a major campaign issue. While his handlers...
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Overview

A Perfect Candidate documents the 1994 Virginia senate campaign of Oliver North. Filmmakers R.J. Cutler (The War Room) and David Van Taylor (Dream Deceivers) take a look at North and his main opponent, Chuck Robb, but focus most of their attention on North's ruthless campaign strategists, Mark Goodin and Mark Merritt, and on Don Baker, a cynical Washington Post reporter who covers the campaign. North runs as a right-wing Christian candidate, and makes his professed faith a major campaign issue. While his handlers compare North to Elvis, and the candidate compares himself to Jesus on one occasion, Baker refers to North as a demagogue. North constantly faces tough questions about his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal. On the one hand, he claims to want to set the record straight, and his campaign recruits former hostage David Jacobsen to vouch for North's good intentions. On the other hand, North constantly prevaricates about lying to Congress, for which he was convicted of perjury. Robb, meanwhile, deals with a political scandal caused by his personal indiscretions, and can't seem to take a stand on any particular issue. His campaign seems based entirely on what an awful choice his opponent would be. The film follows the campaign as independent candidate (and former Democratic governor of Virginia) Doug Wilder first challenges his long-time rival, Robb, then gives in to the will of the party (manifested by a visit from Bill Clinton) and drops out of the race to help defeat North. Goodin, who faced a political scandal of his own while working for the Reagan White House, is surprisingly forthright with the filmmakers about the political process, at one point admitting, "We provide entertainment, not solutions."
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Special Features

Audio commentary by directors R.J. Cutler and David Van Taylor; Ollie & Chuck react; Photo gallery; Filmographies; Chapters
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
When a voter describes the candidates in his state's U.S. Senate election with the comment, "Who you gonna vote for -- the flu or the mumps?" you know that state is in big trouble, and that the race is ripe for a documentary. This record of the 1994 Virginia campaign between Republican challenger Oliver North and Charles Robb picks up the ball and never drops it, thanks in large part to its extensive access to North's campaign meetings, led by the twin Marks -- Goodin and Merritt, his chief campaign strategists. Goodin is every bit as fascinating as James Carville in The War Room. For an experienced pol with a skeleton in his closet, Goodin, who was fired from the Republican National Committee in 1989 for suggesting that a prominent Democratic congressman was gay (an act which earned a denunciation from even Lee Atwater), is remarkably candid on camera about the way the political process works. While he sees North as "the triumph of anger in politics," running him as a pious Washington outsider and attacking Robb on character issues, he's dismayed when an election night poll suggests North's defeat (in a year when Republicans picked up nine Senate seats) was largely due to the public's mistrust of a man convicted of lying to Congress. A chastened (if hypocritical) Goodin swears that night to the press that North's defeat was "the triumph of negative politics." The other fascinating figure here is Washington Post political reporter Don Baker, who at the outset of the campaign sees North as a demagogue but comes around somewhat on him, if only because North does seem to stand for something as opposed to the waffling Robb. In one of the film's best scenes, Baker finds it impossible to pin down the incumbent on an important labor issue and finally turns to a colleague in exasperation to ask, "Will you translate that for me later?" The title refers to a speech made late in the campaign by a black minister to his congregation, who, like the voter quoted above, are well aware of the choice facing them election day. The preacher's rationale for voting for Robb is that there is no such thing as a perfect candidate any more than there is a perfect church. It's a privileged moment in a film packed with them; this is without a doubt one of the most astute portraits of the modern political process ever filmed.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 4/20/2004
  • UPC: 720229911009
  • Original Release: 1996
  • Rating:

  • Source: First Run Features
  • Time: 1:45:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 75,465

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Don Baker Participant
Technical Credits
R.J. Cutler Director, Producer
David Van Taylor Director, Producer, Sound/Sound Designer
Mona Davis Editor
Nicholas Doob Camera Operator
Dan Partland Co-producer
Ted Skillman Co-producer
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Once Upon Iran-Contra [2:44]
2. Seven Years Later (Opening Credits) [8:04]
3. Clay Pigeons and Democrats [9:23]
4. August: Character Counts [10:24]
5. September: By the Throat [10:21]
6. Goodinpolitik [14:23]
7. October: Political Correctness [8:46]
8. A Perfect Candidate [17:51]
9. Final Weekend: The Show [6:48]
10. Election Day: Vindication? [12:50]
11. End Credits (Democracy Is Coming) [3:34]
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Start Film
   Chapters
   Special Features
      Audio Commentary By Directors R.J. Cutler and David Van Taylor: On
      Audio Commentary By Directors R.J. Cutler and David Van Taylor: Off
      Photo Gallery
      Ollie & Chuck React
      Selected Filmographies
         R.J. Cutler - Director/Producer
         David Van Taylor - Director/Producer
         Nicholas Doob - Director of Photography
         Mona Davis - Editor/Associate Director
      Trailer Gallery
         Noam Chomsky In Our Times
         War Photographer
         Berkeley in the Sixties
         S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine
         The Trials of Henry Kissinger
   First Run Features
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