You’re probably (all too) aware that we are racing into the final weeks of the US presidential election. And what an election it’s been. Let’s be honest, this hasn’t been a high point for American democracy. Things have gotten nasty, distorted, racist – and there’s still time left on the clock. This election has been unlike any other.
Many people have already speculated about turning the showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Drumpf into a movie. It makes sense, there’s more drama, twists and turns in this campaign than in a whole season of Game of Thrones. Let’s assume a film adaptation comes together a few years down the line. Which director is the perfect choice to bring this story to life, warts and all? We have a few ideas.
Ava DuVernay’s Selma is a masterpiece that showcases the power of political organizing, the ugliness of American prejudice and the faults of man. If we received a movie about election 2016, we would be lucky to have DuVernary helm it. She would bring a touch of humanity and truth to the proceedings, which is incredibly important for this knock-down, drag-out fight we find ourselves in. Plus it would be fitting that a woman take on the story of the first female candidate to ever win a major party’s nomination and possibly the presidency.
DuVernay is an expert at focusing on the people in the center of the storm. She isn’t as interested in the hubbub of the race as she is the people operating it. These are human beings with hearts, souls, feelings, emotions. DuVernay would bring that to the forefront. This character-driven drama would be the type of film a performer could win an Oscar for. DuVarney wouldn’t pull any punches either. She’d give us the entirety of each character, including their shortcomings. I don’t have to tell you that this campaign is chock-full of personality defects.
While Ava DuVernay’s election film would focus on the candidates and the people around them, Tom McCarthy’s take on the affairs would be much more about the process. Democracy is a big, ugly beast with many moving parts and McCarthy would be able to bring that to life wonderfully. We know he’s capable of this because that’s exactly what he did with Spotlight. It’s a straight-forward but deceptively deep take on the newspaper industry. It’s not flashy by any means but it’s engaging and accurate.
Some people have said that McCarthy’s work is a bit flat. I couldn’t disagree more. He is a wonderful director who doesn’t like to be front-and-center in his work. He’s more concerned with story and character and not directorial flourishes that often bog down true life tales. He would give us the facts, almost as if it was a documentary. But make no mistake, the characters would be strong too – and incredibly well-cast. McCarthy’s Spotlight won the Oscar for Best Picture so you can bet he would get loads of A-list actors on board. This would be a star-studded, critically-acclaimed take on one of the weirdest moments in American history.
Sometimes you want a comforting hand to guide you through confusing, bizarre times. That would be Ron Howard’s approach to directing a film about the 2016 election. Howard’s a well-respected and reliable workhorse who still turns in strong work decades into his career. Like McCarthy, he doesn’t get too carried away with bells and whistles of many directors. This isn’t Danny Boyle or Quentin Tarantino we’re dealing with. But Howard is a talented storyteller who has always been able to balance character and plot with a slight touch of optimism (unless you’re talking about Ransom, that was one bleak film).
You have to remember that the 2016 election is moving at a mile a minute, there’s so much wild, over-the-top stuff happening day after day. We need someone who can tell that story at the breakneck pace it happened in while maintaining a steady hand and eye. That’s Howard, as evidenced by his underrated gem The Paper. That movie was zany as hell but still stayed grounded in reality. That certainly sounds like this election to me.
Any time you make a dream list of directors you have to add David Fincher. It’s just movie nerd nature. With good reason, though, because Fincher is unlike anyone else. His movies feel stylistic, detailed and real while also a bit fantastical.
In his recent years, Fincher has proven that he can tackle real world events too. The Social Network was an Oscar-nominated smash and Zodiac is his best film and one of the ten greatest movies of the last twenty years. While his work always feels slightly dreamlike (or, more accurately, nightmarish) Fincher is able to tell true stories like the best of them. It’ll be a true story that feels dark, heavy and meticulous. That would be a welcome angle for an election that often feels like it’s flying off the rails. He can handle ample dialogue, scores of characters and a hefty story. This would be like a West Wing episode for moody pessimists.
At the end of the day, there is one director who is really tailor-made to make a movie based on this whacky election. Adam McKay, best known for his outlandish comedies Anchorman and Step Brothers, surprised all of Hollywood when he directed The Big Short, a whip smart and dense portrayal of the 2008 financial crisis. That movie and his sense of humor prove he’s the perfect guy for the job.
The best part about The Big Short was that it allowed McKay to retain his style while pushing himself as a film maker. It was also packed to the gills with information and real characters. On top of all that, it was more than a bit silly and embraced the madness of the situation. McKay could bring that all to the story of Drumpf versus Clinton. McKay, an avid anti-Drumpf voter, is heavily invested in the election as it is. He has the energy and the knowledge to bring this story to life in all its bizarre glory. Then there’s the comedy. The sad, sad comedy that is this election. No one else would best capture that, finding the absurd in the…truly absurd.
There’s no better person for the job than Adam McKay. Yet he likely wouldn’t do it. Why? Well, like most of us, he probably wants to leave this election far, far behind.