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Merrily We Don’t Roll Along
David Axelrod doesn’t like the ending of this Obama biopic.


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“First we get the guy who wrote the original to direct. Then, we take the same basic script, which involves a man desperately searching for the truth about his past, and what brought him to his current low estate —”

“I love it,” said both Axelrod and the Exec simultaneously. “Real triumph-of-the-human-spirit stuff.”

“We start with our hero’s moment of maximum triumph, with him basking in the adulation of an adoring crowd. We go the whole nine yards, Corinthian columns, the works.”

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“I can see the poster from my house in Trousdale Estates,” said the Exec.

“Then hubris sets in. Like a Hero in a Joseph Campbell story, he wins his heart’s desire — a fundamental transformation of his world — but in so doing, sows the seeds of the adversity that will follow.”

“Which he’ll then overcome, right?” asked Axelrod. “Or already has overcome. Because we’re telling this backwards . . . which means that the adversity really comes first and then . . . I’m confused.”

“That’s why we get Chris Nolan to direct,” I said, hoping they’d get it now. “Sure, he’s done that Batman jazz, but you just know he’d jump at the chance to redo Memento, only this time with a twist.”

Axelrod was staring at me with those basset-hound eyes. The Exec was sitting bolt upright in his chair. The Assistant had become totally invisible. “What’s the twist?” whispered the Junior Assistant Who Writes Things Down, so caught up in the moment that he forgot he wasn’t supposed to even breathe. “I mean, that whole movie was a twist.”

I paused for dramatic effect, then let them have it: “The movie’s not backwards at all,” I said. “We tell it straight: The Hero springs fully formed from the head of his media adviser, then slowly diminishes in stature until, at the end, he’s just a little man with big ears sitting in front of ugly brown curtains and a great big empty desk, reading a Teleprompter into the ether, with nobody paying attention. Think Redford in The Candidate but with BlackBerrys. He’s a metaphor for our time, a hymn to the human condition, a sign of the diminishment of leadership in the post-&^%$-Bush era, a cautionary tale about the power of the media, and —”

Without a word, Axelrod got up and left the room. For a moment, nobody said anything. Then the Exec spoke.

“You’re fired,” he said.

In a flash, the assistants were ushering me toward the door, and I hadn’t even finished my Diet Coke yet. “But, but,” I cried, “I thought you wanted me to speak truth to power!”

As I lay sprawled on the sidewalk, I could hear his answer: “What, are you stupid? This is Hollywood.”

— David Kahane continues to believe in himself and in his talent, even if nobody else does. To prove they’re all wrong, he’s written a new book, Rules for Radical Conservatives, which will be published by Ballantine Books on September 28. You can tell Dave he’s right, as usual, by friending him on Facebook or by writing to him at [email protected].



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