Roger Stone couldn’t care less if you hate him.
The agent provocateur and self-proclaimed Prince of Darkness of American politics, Stone has a legacy in Washington that’s pitched somewhere between a Machiavellian mastermind and a rat-fuck political hack. Nonetheless, the results of the 2016 election constituted a victory for the risible, flamboyant political operator, and directors Morgan Pehme, Dylan Bank and Daniel DiMauro chart the rise of the nefarious, notorious figure in their latest documentary Get Me Roger Stone, currently available on Netflix.
Charting Stone’s rise from his youth (where he looks like a Neville Longbottom who really hates cucks) to his complicated relationship with the Trump campaign, Get Me Roger Stone offers its audience an unblinking, if disappointingly straightforward, look at the infamous operator. From his involvement in the Watergate scandal, to his cultivation of the “Reagan Democrat” and his normalization of current political bugaboos like super PACs and political lobbying firms, the doc places Stone at the epicenter of these monumental changes in political discourse. As one interviewee puts it, Stone is “the sinister Forrest Gump of American politics.” Through a collage of photos, news segments and interviews (including some face time with Trump himself), Get Me Roger Stone recounts the many political pies whose fingers Stone’s hands have graced over the years.
Stone is a fascinating figure to watch, even as you have to hold your nose to do it. A mainstay of the conservative political machine for decades, with his pinstripe suits and shock-white helmet of hair, Stone carries himself with all the confidence and sleaziness of Patrick Bateman. He, like his longtime friend Trump, is a type-A personality obsessed with winning at all costs, exhibiting a sociopathy that would put Bateman to shame. It’s hard to watch him gleefully talk about taking down entire political parties and ruining reputations, all while claiming he hasn’t “done anything illegal or immoral in any way.” His relationship with the filmmakers is intriguing, consistently warning friends caught on camera that “these guys are liberal filmmakers, they cannot be trusted.” One wonders why Stone would agree to be filmed and framed in such a way, until you realize that he craves celebrity and coverage
That’s where some of the film’s flaws come into sharper relief: it’s hard to not want Get Me Roger Stone to cut deeper into Stone’s contradictions, or his unfailing and ostentatious sense of self-interest. This is a man who has at least one room in his home built as a shrine to Richard Nixon, and who acts as a sleepy-eyed mascot for the alt-right. Despite his occasional bursts of ideological generosity (his libertarianism, for instance, allows him to be pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-marijuana, etc.), those glimmers of hope also come off as cynical ploys for anti-establishment attention. By the time he likens his 91-year-old mother to Livia from The Sopranos, it’s clear that Stone doesn’t operate on the same moral calculus that most others do.
While the filmmakers capture some ‘gotcha’ moments via contradictory statements he’s made on news shows, and offer a few barbs about his craven need for attention and blatant hypocrisy, the whole affair feels more like a resigned sigh against the fact that the bad guys have won. Thankfully, there’s no attempt at a tragic backstory for Stone, or any personal trauma that might help to explain his psyche – he’s been a grade-A sleaze since he held his first misinformation campaign in high school to swing a mock election. But even so, the film offers no ‘so what?’ to Stone’s existence and influence, particularly in the third act’s painful rehashing of the 2016 election, a recap of events too recent to offer any fresh insights.
Get Me Roger Stone showcases a terrifying portrait of the dim new direction of American politics, and the devious cryptkeeper responsible for it. It’s admirable enough as a documentary, but its existence alone plays right into the hands of its subject, a man who loves to drink liberal tears with all the glee of a five-year-old with a Capri Sun. In that respect, the notion of watching Get Me Roger Stone becomes harder to stomach. As the days go by and President Trump’s scandals and inefficacy as president become increasingly clearer to the American people, you may come to loathe Roger Stone. That’s all right by him: “I revel in your hatred. Because if I weren’t effective, you wouldn’t hate me.”