'Bulworth' satire misses the mark

May 30, 1998|By GREGORY KANE

HOLLYWOOD'S efforts to deliberately rankle conservatives continue unabated. The latest attempt is Warren Beatty's "Bulworth," which opened nationwide earlier this month.

The film has a number of things going for it. Beatty's movie -- he's the co-writer, director and star -- is screamingly funny. In some parts, it is brutally honest.

Beatty plays California U.S. Sen. Jay Bulworth, who suddenly loses his mind and, during his re-election campaign, starts uttering truth instead of drivel. He tells a Jewish group that he includes all "the big Jews" on his speaking tours and includes an obligatory derogatory remark about Louis Farrakhan in his speeches.

At a black church, a woman asks Bulworth why no money has been allocated to rebuild the community. The senator answers that he and other politicians had no intention of allocating said money when they visited the area and made the promise. The visit was only a photo op.

A young black woman played by Halle Berry catches Bulworth's eye. He invites her and two companions to a Compton nightclub. Soon Bulworth is jamming to the rap music, trying his hand as a DJ and learning hip-hop lingo. He is slowly becoming African-Americanized and drifting toward homeboyhood.

It is from this twist in the plot -- Bulworth's slumming through Compton -- that the film derives much of its humor. Some parts of "Bulworth" are political satire at its very best. In other segments, you'll be left thinking, "Well, Beatty got the 'bull' part right."

The Bulworth character is depicted as an ex-liberal shamelessly and cynically espousing conservative causes to get himself re-elected. There have, indeed, been liberals who have switched to conservatism. But opportunism was not the motive. The converts switched because they realized liberals could not utter the words "personal responsibility" without choking on them.

Bulworth's Compton sojourn leads him to confront a neighborhood drug dealer, who proceeds to give a lecture on the deplorable state of the schools and how he is offering the 10- and-11-year-old boys who work for him a viable economic opportunity. The dealer sneers at work in fast-food restaurants, claiming the wages are not enough to survive on.

It is such comments that make some wish public caning were legal in the United States. The line of reasoning has been used before, by liberals white and black. It smacks of an attempt to justify drug dealing while ignoring that fast-food jobs aren't meant to be permanent jobs leading to affluence. They are what they are: temporary jobs to give high school kids cash for clothes, entertainment and whatever else they might need.

Neither the fictional Bulworth nor real-life liberals seem capable of making that connection. But that should be expected when drug dealers are quoted as if they really have a clue about what it takes to cure society's ills.

Soon Bulworth is surging forth armed with such ghetto illogic, railing against the enemy: corporations and the media. Back in the real world, sane Americans know that there must be hundreds of corporations that contribute to programs designed to help minorities. Quickly: How many of you have heard of a street-level drug dealer passing up a Lexus to donate the money for a college scholarship to some kid who managed to get into college, that pathetic public school system notwithstanding? Anyone? Anyone?

I thought not. The Drug Dealers Scholarship Program for Disadvantaged Youth does not exist and never will.

dTC Bulworth insists that the way to end racial problems is through interracial marriage, which would produce a-racial offspring and

end racism. Beatty is obviously unaware of the experience in Haiti, where interracial marriage and mating produced offspring that led to more racism and racial strife, not less.

It seems odd -- indeed, downright frightening -- that a Hollywood type would presume to preach to the rest of us about solving our racial problems. This is the same Hollywood that, a few years ago, was accused of snubbing blacks in Academy Award nominations and of not having enough blacks in off-screen positions. This is the same Hollywood that has failed to give black actor Samuel L. Jackson an Oscar despite superb performance after superb performance.

Liberal Hollywood's rhetoric on race vis-a-vis its actions make John Wayne's views -- he admitted he was a white supremacist '' -- downright refreshing. Ah, Duke, me boy, where are you now that you're really needed?

Pub Date: 5/30/98

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