Watching Mora Stephens' Conventioneers feels like we are getting an inside look to the political process that isn't covered in the nightly news. It is as if the layer of all the big wigs has been pulled back and we get the sub layer. The real nuts and bolts behind what makes the political machine run in our country. We see the passion and sweat of the major parties, who always seem to come off as more passionate then the people they support. Within this is a straight-on look at the divide between people this often creates. In fact, I feel that one of the most telling moments in this film as when one character asks the other if they would date a member of the opposite party. It seems that amongst the younger generations (of which I myself am a part), the question is no longer would you date somebody from another race, but rather could you date someone with a different political ideology then the one that you hold?
Conventioneers is a brilliantly crafted film set against the real life Republican National Convention of 2004. It's stars are Lea Jones (Woodwyn Koons) and David Massey (Matt Mabe). In the beginning we see these characters as the people they have become. Who they are in real life, passed the college years, their hopes, their dreams and trying to make it in the real world. Massey is married and committed to the Republican party, while Lea is engaged but devoted to getting George W. Bush out of office. Old friends from college, Massey and Jones meet up during the RNC and it seems like only a matter of time until they are going to be sleeping together. As idealistic as these characters are about their politics, it seems that like the rest of us, those ideals don't always carry over into their personal relationships. I have always felt that this was an interesting discussion about "my generation", in that we feel things so strongly and we've been given so many benefits, yet even with all that privilege it doesn't seem like we feel privileged. Either way, this film tackles many different subjects and themes with this one being just another on the list. The beauty of the way that Conventioneers unfolds in my opinion is that depending on your political position, depending on your thoughts about male/female relationships, you can really see this film in many different ways. I think it's obvious where the creators of this movie come out politically, but in the end I still thought that Conventioneers was a pretty objective look at present-day politics in the United States.
Massey and Jones relationship is a bath of sex but it soon becomes apparent these two are going to have to face up to their differences. Truthfully, I don't know that it's politics so much that get in the way here. It seems more like it's the mindset that politics create. Massey wants to leave his wife and wants Lea to move to Washington, DC with him. Lea, a very self-possessed, independent woman has other ideas for what she wants to do with her life. This to me doesn't speak directly to whether one supports Bush or Kerry. It seems like if Massey wasn't married and he and Lea lived closer that a relationship could happen easier. It seems like it's more a case of who these characters really are that ultimately undoes them.
Now in this review, I am leaving out other subplots like Lea's relationship with her father, Lea's inability to get a "real job" because she feels she has more important work to do, Lea's friend Dylan Murtaugh who is a former protester, turned parent, who does Sign Language for a living and is asked to "sign" for Bush during his speech, etc. All of these situations are handled in the same freewheeling way that Massey and Lea's relationship is. I also like how this movie answers some questions but leaves others open. Is Lea really happy in her relationship with her fiancé? Will Massey and his wife stay together after he admits to her that he's been unfaithful? Conventioneers is a movie that isn't afraid to present itself at almost a somewhat frenetic pace, yet it seems like it's stopped to breathe the whole time. It allows the viewer to really become engaged with all the characters, even the peripheral ones who maybe have only a few minutes of screen time.
Matt Mabe and Woodwyn Koons could not be better suited for the roles they have been tapped to play. When I think of Republicans I think of men that look like Matt Mabe. Koons plays the role of a passionate Democrat flawlessly. She has the look, the politics, yet there is a vulnerability there that I think Massey's character taps into. In fact, I think these characters play on each other's a vulnerabilities. I think Lea sees a life with Massey and is a tad tempted by the security that might offer (she could still be a protester in her spare time, right?). I think Massey feels trapped by both his relationship with his wife, and his political ideas which it seems like he has never been asked to question. At the end of the day these characters make the choices it seems that people ultimately have to make. The sad part is I don't think they are truly happy with them, but then again isn't that just like politics, we may not fully tow the party line but we still walk beside it.
Conventioneers is so dead-on in so many ways that I think it would be a travesty if more people don't see this film. It is currently playing at Festivals and is slated for a theatrical release at some point in the future. This is a film that could be huge at colleges across the country. It could do really well with co-op groups and the various political organizations that have formed around the two major parties in this country. At the end of the day Massey and Lea are symbols of our divided nation, yet why this film works is the hope that maybe they can come together. And even if we know that may not work, I think part of the enjoyment comes in trying.
For more information on Conventioneers CLICK HERE to visit the official website.