|© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
|Ralph Nader posed with
his supporters known as
"Nader's Raiders" of the
steps of the U.S. Capitol.
According to the film
AN UNREASONABLE MAN,
this photograph came to
be known as "The Lone
Ranger and His Posse."
© John Zimmerman, Life Magazine
Academy Award for Best Documentary, AN
UNRESONABLE MAN had its debut at the 2006
Sundance Film Festival where it ran close to three
hours and was more or less favorably reviewed by
the trades. After IFC Films and Red Envelope
Entertainment obtained the distribution rights,
the movie was trimmed to just over two hours.
Filmmakers Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan
(both of whom have performed stand-up comedy
and worked as TV writers) have crafted a fairly
strong portrait of Ralph Nader, although to my
mind the film drags in spots and the repetition of
some footage early in the movie did not help
AN UNREASONABLE MAN takes its title from a
1903 quote by George Bernard Shaw from Maxims
for Revolutionaries: ""The reasonable man adapts
himself to the world; the unreasonable one
persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.
Therefore all progress depends on the
unreasonable man." In a nutshell, that does
describe Nader, who is introduced in the
mid-1960s during his crusade for automobile
safety. Eventually, it jumps back in time to give a
sense of from where he came (Winstead,
Connecticut) where his emigrant parents had
settled. The many causes he has championed
over the years, from the labeling of medication to
the meat packing industry to environmental
concerns are touched upon.
The co-directors (Mantel once worked for Nader
before she turned to show business) also make
an attempt to address the activist's personal life
-- or rather lack thereof. Even one of his
biographers is quoted as saying that he dug
around and could find no indication about Nader's
proclivities. Essentially, the man is a workaholic
who has eschewed personal relationships in favor
of his overriding sense of justice.
There are some intriguing interviews with a few
people who once worked for him who later had
disagreements with him. These men and women
describe a man who became angry and almost
jealous when they left him and who treated these
defections as betrayals.
The latter section of the film concentrates on
Nader's political career and the still controversial
effects of his run for president in 2000. Some
deem him the spoiler for Al Gore in Florida and
other swing states, although one academic
interviewed claims he did a study that proves
that Nader did not have that effect on the overall
In spite of the liberal use of archival newsreel
footage, the interview sections of the movie are
nothing more than the usual "talking heads,"
which can become a bit tedious. Still, some of
the "heads" are intriguing and interesting,
especially those former member of "Nader's
Raiders" as well as several members of the press,
most culled from The Washington Post.
I did find AN UNREASONABLE MAN informative,
a bit infuriating and also a bit tedious. A little
more editing could have tightened the film's
structure a bit. Still, this is worth a look for a
portrait of a very unique voice in America and
American politics. Nader holds a special place in
advocacy, especially advocacy for the common
man -- the everyday consumer -- and that is a
rare voice which should be heard.
MPAA Rating: NONE
Running time: 122 mins.
Viewed at the IFC Center