After last week started with Trump’s tax returns getting released and his former campaign manager being put under a psychiatric hold, ended with him contracting coronavirus, and also had what many called “the worst presidential debate of all time” in between, it left me saying one thing: “Boy, at least this gives a nice little timeframe for the Trump biopic we’ll eventually see.”
Already we’re seeing depictions of Donald Trump – Showtime recently debuted The Comey Rule, a miniseries depicting James Comey’s investigation into Trump’s campaign. I haven’t watched The Comey Rule yet, and I don’t plan to. The only thing about it that interests me is Brendan Gleeson as Donald Trump, a performance that (at least in the trailers) seems to capture both the menacing and absurd nature of the man. But otherwise, it feels too… partisan. It feels vaguely like propaganda, with the intention of influencing voters rather than telling any kind of compelling story or just being a good series. I don’t know exactly what the statute of limitations is on depicting real-life events, but I feel like we have to get out of Trump’s first – and hopefully, last – term before we start satirizing it. And Brendan Gleeson – who is a superb actor – is such a superb choice to play Trump; it feels like Gleeson deserves a better project to play Trump in.
A far better example of what a Trump Administration movie would look like can be found in a satire of the Soviet Union, The Death of Stalin, a 2018 period piece satire chronicling the sudden death and subsequent power vacuum of the USSR’s most notorious dictator.
One advantage that Death of Stalin will have over any Trump satires is that it’s made clear that this is supposed to a fast-and-loose retelling of the events. It’s clear from the way the actors speak in their respective accents rather than putting on a Russian accent.
The movie does a tremendous job of playing up the laughs while also balancing them with the horrors of the Stalin Regime. Two scenes which present the movie’s dual nature come fairly close together – Stalin’s death and the clearing of his estate. The death itself is a long, drawn-out process, and culminates in his councilors hauling his unconscious body into a deathbed – depositing him clumsily and complaining that he smells like urine. It’s played for laughs, and it’s hilarious. Less hilarious is just a few scenes later, when the NKVD arrives at Stalin’s estate and unceremoniously executes everyone who knew anything about how Stalin died.
I’d be a fool to say that Trump is on an equal level to Stalin – he’s not, though I imagine he would be if he had his druthers. He is a tyrant of a lesser magnitude – but he’s not beyond parody or censure. When we finally get around to making and watching movies about the most divisive man in America, they need to be as absurd, infuriating, and, for lack of a better word, funny
Anyway. I hope that when we do get a movie about the Trump Administration, it’s something that makes me laugh and sigh. Something that drives home just how funny and terrifying the headlines these past four years have been. Something that shows just how funny ego-driven government can be, and just how much comedic fodder can be found in leaders who are so concerned with projecting an image of strength for their own gratification rather than adequately or justly run their country.