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May 28, 2007 | by  | in Film |
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Bullworth (1998)

With Labour’s latest pro-business budget, “the party of the workers” has made another shift to the right. Tax cuts and tax credits for business while Dr Cullen has presented workers with the privatisation of retirement social security. The illusion that Labour was the more progressive of the two main parties has truly come to an end. The only reason people will vote for them is that they feel there is no other alternative, an idea that Labour has a long history of putting forward. However I guess there is still one group of people that think Labour is on the right track, other than the rich: the members of the party itself. How can the idealist in Labour (particularly young Labour) reconcile with their conservative party? Bulworth is a film about a conservative Democratic senator, Jay Billington Bulworth, from California running for re-election. As a former liberal who got into politics to make a difference: the years of compromise, betrayal and opportunism have led to a nervous breakdown. So he takes out a huge life insurance policy through a crooked lobbyist then organizes for a hit man to kill him within the next few days. Waiting for his death while on the campaign trail he realises that there will be no consequences from anything he says. He throws away all political platitudes and speaks with complete candor. When a black audience asks why the federal government hasn’t fulfilled its promises Bulworth’s replies, “We told you what you wanted to hear and pretty much forgot about it.” He tells Hollywood big shots that all they make is “crap”, corporate CEO’s that they exploit their workers and the media that it is subservient to the two political parties and big business. Bulworth is very much about the Clinton administration that, like the NZ Labour party, was elected on the promise of a more progressive government but went the opposite way. In the climax of the film, Bulworth rails against the things that Democratic/Labour pledged to fix but instead made worse: inequality between rich and poor, lack of decent jobs, inadequate health care, racism. Of course most people, on some level, already know that all the political parties suck, but it’s still nice to see it articulated in a really insightful film.

WARREN BEATTY

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