He opens his review, dangling over of a cliff of despair:
I watched this movie with my mouth agape for most of it. The monumental level of ignorance and the power that it holds over so many Americans is staggering. No matter how many times I read news stories about it, see it represented in films or even in actual documentaries like this one where the masses hang themselves with their own words and actions it still sends me into a frenetic spell of anger and frustration.
If I could sit down with these people one on one and try to answer their questions and make them see how ridiculous they are being I would do it in a second. The older people are probably not worth the effort but there is still hope for the younger generations who are just constantly force fed this message of intolerance, hate and innate Christian superiority. (Sound at all familiar? Similar to a group from circa 1930-ish?) Yeah, exactly.
Then he acknowledges, heartily, that all is not lost:
What’s the Matter with Kansas? is a documentary by Laura Cohen and Joe Winston based on the book by Thomas Frank of the same name that examines historically the sociopolitical condition of the Sunflower State. Although widely regarded as a typical conservative “fly over” state, Kansas in fact has deep roots in the liberal movement and democratic thinking. Recent changes in the political landscape have pushed Kansas back into the red but that wasn’t always the case.
The filmmakers do a good job of showing the many sides to this story. Going in one would expect to see the depiction of the Bible thumping radical Republican on one side and the educated liberals on the other. Now, don’t get me wrong they are there but there are also a few other types of people that show up to muddy the waters a bit.
And after viewing the film and the extras, he concludes:
No matter which side of the debate you find yourself on What’s the Matter with Kansas will have something for you because unlike yours truly, they don’t take a side. They present a lot of interesting facts and people and leave the final judgment up to the audience.
The test a good documentary is if two sides of an issue can sit down together and have a real debate after viewing it leading to new understandings on both sides. I think this movie succeeds in that sense. Fortunately for me and my sanity I didn’t have a Bible thumper nearby to discuss it with but I imagine he or she would have had a lot to say and would probably have been proud of how his or her side had been presented. For my part it definitely ‘got my Irish up’ as they say, but ultimately I was better for having watched it.
The entire review is well worth a read, you’ll find it here.