Film review: Nader film like the man

Published: Friday, March 30 2007 12:51 a.m. MDT

"An Unreasonable Man" paints a portrait of activist Ralph Nader.

Greg Kafoury, Ifc First Take

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AN UNREASONABLE MAN — *** — Documentary feature about consumer advocate Ralph Nader; not rated, probable R (profanity, violence, brief gore, brief drugs).

"An Unreasonable Man" attempts to do for former presidential candidate Ralph Nader what "An Inconvenient Truth" did for one of his opponents, Al Gore.

As with "Truth" — which won the best-documentary Oscar earlier this year — "An Unreasonable Man" doubles as both a thinkpiece and a sympathetic portrait of its subject. But like Nader, the film is a little long-winded and infuriatingly single-minded.

Although, to be fair, when either Nader or the film actually has a point to make, they do make a convincing case.

Nader, a Harvard Law School graduate who became an activist during the mid-1960s, rode successful public-safety campaigns against General Motors and other automotive companies to form his Nader's Raiders group, which pushed him into the national spotlight.

But it was his dissatisfaction with national politics — particularly the growing influence of corporations and political-action committees — led him to seek public office.

The latter half of the film is dominated by discussions of Nader's two unsuccessful presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004, to include speculation about whether his third-party candidacy prevented Al Gore from being elected in 2000.

In its favor, Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan's film doesn't just take Nader's side on that issue — or others, for that matter. "An Unreasonable Man" also allows some of Nader's critics and former friends to speak their minds. (According to the press notes, that was done at Nader's behest, which is a laudable move on his part.)

If anyone here comes off as unsympathetic, it's self-important Nader campaign manager Theresa Amato and "Nader 2000" co-chairman Phil Donahue.

"An Unreasonable Man" is not rated but would probably receive an R for scattered use of strong sexual profanity, some disturbing violent images (some gory automobile accidents), and some brief references to drugs and toxic chemicals. Running time: 122 minutes.


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