January 16th, 2008

BREAKING: The Dean Movie Is Here. No, Not The George Clooney Version, So For God’s Sake Get A Hold Of Yourself, Ladies

by Philip Baruth

You thought you’d have to wait five years or more for the Hollywood version of The Story of Howard Dean. But it’s here, now. On the silver-screen. Larger than life. The date movie for Vermont political junkies with a heart — but junkies who also have a weak spot for a Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid sort of massacre at the end.

No, not that movie, not the long-rumored George Clooney production. It’s better: this is “Dean and Me: Roadshow of an American Primary,” directed by one Heath Eiden.

Why better? Because Clooney and his partner Leonardo DiCaprio clearly plan to tart the Dean story up, and infuse it with all sorts of semi-fictional after-the-fact storylines. Romance, meaningful voice-over, and casual walk-ons by Hollywood activist types.

Like Ben Affleck. You heard us: Ben Affleck.

Eiden, on the other hand, was on the ground during the campaign, camera running. Under the tongue-in-cheek logo of DeanTV, Eiden followed the buses and the planes and the national media celebrities who would eventually put a match to the Movement.

In short, his story looks to be far closer to the realities of Dean as he was, rather than Dean as we might now wish him to have been.

That means all the uplift, the heady days of the Sleepless Summer Tour that made Howard Dean a household word nationwide. And that means the less flattering moments as well.

Case in point: Eiden went to Dean campaign guru Joe Trippi at a certain point, to pitch DeanTV as a means for the candidate to bypass some of the unflattering coverage already surfacing. He would be filming in any event, Eiden argued, so why shouldn’t the campaign take formal advantage of the resource?

Long story short: Trippi was non-committal, and then refused to answer calls. And just weeks later Trippi introduced his own version of Eiden’s cheeky idea, calling it HowardDean.TV.

That smarts.

In that way, Eiden’s quest to be accepted by the Dean Campaign (he now says he was a member of the Movement, if not the Campaign) becomes a real-life narrative line structuring the unvarnished footage from the campaign trail.

Although the film is now feature-length (90 minutes) and in “rough cut form,” Eiden has one last grassroots-style play in mind: allowing Vermont audiences to influence the final version.

In other words, you still have the power.

In an uncharacteristically quiet moment in 2004, Chris Matthews ponders ways to personally botch the New Hampshire Primary four years in the future.

When can you see it? Two sneak previews: one at Montpelier’s Savoy on Jan. 26, and one at Burlington’s Roxy on Jan. 27, at 11 a.m. Eiden’s asking for contributions following the show: $10 or “whatever you think it’s worth.”

Chance to watch the scrappy ex-Governor of Vermont rise again to confront the Forces of Darkness: Priceless.