Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dan Hedaya
Directed by Andrew Flemming
With the exception of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, there’s been nothing more exciting for conspiracy buffs to debate about than the Watergate scandal and the fall of President Richard Nixon. The fact that Oliver Stone, “Mr. Conspiracy” himself, has helmed movies about both of these subjects proves my point. If Stone had a sense of humor, then maybe his self-conscious “Nixon” would have turned out to be more like the joke that it should have been. Thankfully, Andrew Flemming’s clever, hip, and funny “Dick” gives a whole new meaning to the words “political satire”.
Betsy (Kirsten Dunst) and Arlene (Michelle Williams) are two perky teeny-boppers who, through a series of “Forrest-Gump”-like circumstances, happen to be at the Watergate building the night of the infamous bust. A Nixon staffer recognizes them during a White House tour, and they become the official walkers for the first-dog, Checkers. The girls become quite popular, thanks to their secret recipe for walnut cookies. Arlene develops a crush on the Commander-in-Chief so intense that we finally find out what’s on the missing 18 1/2 minutes of tape. Ultimately, its Nixon’s penchant for foul language, prejudice, and his disdain for Checkers that offends the girls enough to begin his downfall.
All the usual suspects are here, with their classic personalities magnified to the extreme. What could be funnier than H. R. Haldeman’s (Dave Foley) overly paranoid behavior to protect the President, or a defensive Henry Kissinger (Saul Rubinek) justifying his foreign policy to a couple of teenagers? Even Bob Woodward (Will Ferell) and Carl Bernstein (Bruce McCulloch) are reduced to a couple of overly competitive, immature reporters who just got really lucky.
Kirsten Dunst (“Drop Dead Gorgeous”) and Michelle Williams (TV’s “Dawson’s Creek) are so loose with their early 70’s idealisms, you’d think they were old enough to have experienced the events when they actually happened. Accomplished character-actor Dan Hedaya makes the role of Nixon his own without falling into parody, even catching “tricky Dick’s” most subtle mannerisms.
Every once in a while it’s fun to take an amusing look at the past, but when it came to politics, culture, and fashion in 1973, what the heck were we thinking? The historical subtleties may fly right over the heads of today’s hip teens, but conspiracy buffs will no doubt have a good laugh at one of America’s biggest political blunders.