Filmmaker Kirby Dick proved himself to be quite a pundit by making “This Film is Not Rated.” In this documentary, he investigates the cloistered ratings bureau and reveals that the people who censor – ahem, rate movies are better suited for gardening or leading a girl scout troop. Dick’s style is off-the-cuff, with a grittiness that suits the content. Members of the ratings bureau would condemn “Rated” on that fact alone that it cannot serve their populist tastes.
Stylistically, Dick’s follow-up is not even “Rated’s” distant cousin. “Outrage,” which channels the titular sentiment toward closeted politicians who promote self-hating policies, is slick and as stylized as if a descendent of director Alex Gibney (his “Taxi to the Dark Side” is so coolly composed that we at times forget it documents real-life horrors). We could wonder if Dick allows the content to modify his style once again, if we argue that the issues herein warrant such, while “Rated” is rightfully a spiteful F-you to the powers that judge what we watch. But I wonder if his stylistic sense has slipped away in “Outrage,” a film so refined that it seems impersonal.
I won’t bemoan the film’s austerity. “Outrage” is as important as any other political doc out there. Dick highlights soapbox steppers like Florida Governor Charlie Crist (who could hold his own against Richard Simmons in a dance-off ), butch sellout Mary Cheney, and notorious stall-boy Larry Craig (“I have a wide stance”) – enough anti-gay gays to keep gay rights suppressed for some time. Their voting records and secret lives keep those of us who just want human rights livid.
Yet the most disturbing commentary comes from Republican gays. On camera, they describe other closeted members of their party who condemn “coming out” as a sign of weakness. In their words, the strong stay silent to uphold the norm – even if they ruin the lives of the women they marry and the children they sire. The film then channels HUAC henchman Roy Cohn, embodied by Al Pacino in HBO’s “Angels in America,” who says – in so many words – that homosexuals are weak, defeated while he’s just a straight who occasionally likes to play with boys; self-hating right up to his diagnosis of a disease that spread under the religious Right’s ignorance of it. If scholars now (rightfully) term American slavery “the African Holocaust,” then such denial and hatred of gays warrants a similar term. Call Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson the Grand Wizard or Das Führer.
Do I sound outraged? Well, this film will do it to you. The average viewer will be satisfied with the product, even if the film offers hardly any new information. The doc buff will witness a film that can’t surface above the steady nonfiction output at the art house. This viewer will have to await Dick’s next distinguished work.