Monitor: Warren Beatty's `Bulworth' divided America. Here is what the papers said

VIEWERS OF every political stripe - from froth-mouthed fiscal conservatives to pork-barrel pinkos - may all squirm equally at the uncomfortable humour and hard-edge wit of Bulworth, the splendid and splenetic political satire from director, producer, co-writer and star Warren Beatty. The film, while radical in its own way, drives so far beyond "leftist" - which some have dubbed it - that political labels are no longer discernible in the rearview mirror. It's daring, deliberately offensive and, for a comedy, it has far more ideas in it than actual laughs, but Beatty manages to pull it off by sheer force of will, clarity of vision and an effervescent performance that rivals his best work. Beneath its astringent and cynical exterior beats a pure and idealistic heart that is almost biblical in its corniness. Love one another. The love of money is the root of all evil. The gods help them that help themselves. These are some of the root revolutionary notions that Bulworth espouses. Beatty's character even comes across as a quasi-Christ figure, shepherding the societal lepers and outcasts to salvation.

- Washington Post

IN A potentially cheap, high-concept gimmick, Bulworth lets its button- down, white-politician-turned-homeboy, rap excitedly to the same electorate he once put to sleep.Beatty well knows how to avoid making a fool of himself, and how to treat sheepish naivete as a fine comic advantage. Though the tradition of 1970s dropout comedy has not entirely vanished, today's movie dropouts don't often find much worth dropping back into. Not so Bulworth: he plunges headlong into black urban culture and political advocacy as if no white Democratic senator could ever dream of such a thing.

- New York Times

BULWORTH (R, 107 MINUTES) - Contains prodigious profanity, a shooting, sexual allusions and a black-velvet painting of a nude.

- Washington Post

MORE THAN 40 years later, the White Negro Esthetic - of which Bulworth is merely the latest example - refuses to die. Beatty recycles [Norman] Mailer's stale ideas, hoping that the parodic tone and hip-hop packaging will fool us into thinking that it's fresh. As part of his research into everyday, inner-city life, he hung out with the decidedly unrepresentative Suge Knight (the former CEO of Death Row Records). As one filmmaker puts it, "It's like me listening to a few Beach Boy records, hanging out with Marilyn Manson and then thinking that I know something about the white race." For all the hype that Beatty's film is "brave" and "politically incorrect," it simply peddles paper-thin stereotypes.

- Newsweek

BULWORTH DOESN'T always hit the bull's-eye. But it has the audacity to be original. In America, the film's been greeted as almost art-house fare - a minority taste, not a mass flavour. That's sad, but not unexpected. A nation that's been dumbsized into accepting The Simpsons as the cutting- edge commentators on social and political issues, brainwashed into a denial of presidential lies and lewdness and bullied into accepting a non-judgmental attitude to every vice is hardly in a state to relish being told some punishing home truths.

- Evening Standard

THIS STORY was probably funny in Beatty's head. It may even have been hilarious on paper. But on screen, Bulworth gives us about 30 minutes of humour before it devolves into a ridiculous, sophomoric social commentary. Beatty is Jay Billington Bulworth, an old-line liberal Democrat who has become jaded to the political gills. Tired of the bull (get it?), he hires a hit man to kill him. With this fatal freedom, Bulworth decides to begin telling the unvarnished truth about politics. He goes to a church in south central LA and tells black constituents that he hasn't done anything for their neighbourhood because they don't contribute enough money. Then he goes to a posh reception in Beverly Hills and tells Hollywood types that their product stinks, but he came to the bash because he figured there would be some well-heeled Jewish contributors there. Then [he goes] to an after-hours club in Compton, where Bulworth drinks, smokes pot and dances the night away. This concludes the funny portion of our movie.

- St Louis Post Dispatch

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