17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2004
I bought the "The Reagans" DVD about a week before Reagan passed away but didn't have a chance to watch it until after all the funeral ceremonies had concluded. After all the controversy that erupted over the film last November, I was expecting to see quite a horror-fest of a movie. Turns out it's nothing of the sort. Definitely not belittling or derogatory. Instead, it offers a sympathetic portrayal of a couple that left me liking the Reagans more than I did before I saw the film (and I liked them before anyway). There's no reason why this couldn't have shown on CBS. But if you ask me, I think the amount of subject matter covered warranted a far bigger budget and more time on a scale like "Angels in America" $60 million/6 hour miniseries and a cable channel like HBO that has the megabucks and the backbone to allow a filmmaker to make a truly quality film. Really, they were cramming 2 lifetimes of accomplishments into a 3 hr film.
If you hold strong political beliefs leaning right or left about the Reagans, "The Reagans" isn't for you. What you want is either a tribute show with nothing but good to say or a show that's an indictment of the Reagan era, respectively. Go elsewhere to find those films. If you fall somewhere in between and aren't obsessed with political details, you might enjoy "The Reagans." It's an average TV biopic that could've been better, but it does have its moments. It's not the greatest but not the worst either tracing how then actress Nancy Davis met actor Ronald Reagan and then his rise to California governor and then 2-term US president. The real focus of the film is the loving relationship between Nancy and Ronald. Ronald is portrayed as someone who sees the good in people, not having political aspirations in the beginning, committed to his wife. Nancy is portrayed as being forever steadfast, lovingly devoted, and protective of her husband to the exclusion sometimes of their children. Yes, there are scenes where she's portrayed to be influencing White House staff decisions and advising the President (what married couple in America doesn't advise one another?). Surprisingly these are some of the best scenes in the film. Short clips of some of these scenes with Judy Davis were shown in the media last November which led people to criticize her Nancy Reagan portayal as harsh and "mommie dearest-like" but when I saw the scenes in context in the film, there was nothing to support the flak over Davis'performance. What I saw was a woman vehemantly defending her husband from staff who should've known better.
In fact, the best thing about the film is Judy Davis' performance. Great actors can take medicore dialog and deliver it to great effect, and Davis does just that in parts. Second best is the guy who played Mike Deaver. The worst thing about the movie is the script. It could've been, should've been better. Producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan should've hired the writer(s) who did their acclaimed "Life with Judy Garland" biopic or the ones who wrote ABC's "Anne Frank" and maybe even had some of the Reagan family involved. A Canadian newspaper reported that Judy Davis was eager to meet with Nancy Reagan in preparation for her role but she was dissuaded from doing so by the powers that be. So Davis was left to books, videos, and the actor's imagination for her take on Nancy. All in all, a lost opportunity to get first-hand information. If Judy Davis had been able to meet Nancy, her portrayal of Nancy Reagan may have been decidedly different. Considering Nancy Reagan herself was reportedly pitching a film version of her life to cable (TNT or TBS?) some years ago as well, who knows? If the Reagan family were involved, I doubt the controversy would have ever come about.
Advice to Neil Meron and Craig Zadan: Skip CBS. Let them make their own schlock. Make films for HBO where they have the megabucks and creative backing for their film projects.
DVD Extras: There's a running commentary from producers Neil Meron/Craig Zadan and director Robert Allan Ackerman. They tell of how the Reagan project came about, that it was originally pitched to ABC a few years ago as a movie specifically about Nancy Reagan. ABC passed on it and CBS greenlighted it last year but wanted a film to focus on the Reagans as a couple. They said CBS wanted the film immediately for November sweeps so they had very little time to put the film together properly (if you ask me, technically the finished product shows it was thrown together!). It had no script at that point and no research had been done either. An idiotic way to make a film, IMO! They talk of why certain scenes are the way they are or what books the scenes draw from. Towards the end of the commentary they talk of the controversy generated by the New York Times article. Other DVD Extras are 11 extended/deleted scenes in finished form that were cut from the film. Yes, the one with the controversial "AIDS" line is included with an explanation of what source the line drew from with the original version and a version where they tried dubbing another line. Neither version are in the final movie. There's also a short interview with James Brolin.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2004
I went into this having a somewhat negative view of Reagan and a neutral opinion of his wife. I was quite surprised to find that it changed my opinion of Reagan for the better. Nancy, however, definitely comes off the worse. The portrayals all seem very honest and reasonable and the controversy surrounding it seems misplaced. In fact, all the hub-bub sourrounding this movie feels much more like an attempt to make sure the public only remembers the good things in Reagan's administration. Bottom-line, I would recommend this movie for what it is; a very good depiction of the events and a sometimes exaggerated depiction of the people in Reagan's life. Like the movie says, the roles are presented as a composite.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Much of the hype of this television movie lies in the fact that CBS refused to air it, apparently bowing to conservative pressure. This of course created a bunch of hype prior to the release of the movie, and its quick demotion to a DVD release. After watching it, it made me wonder what all of the fuss was about. The Reagans is a comprehensive, yet inch deep look at a powerful couple destined to greatness in the political world.
James Brolin plays an eerie, and I mean eerie, Ronald Reagan throughout his lifetime. His acting is spot on in portraying a Reagan who is both wonderfully amiable to everyone that he meets, and yet distant to everyone who loved him the most. This Reagan is an actor through and through, and he continues his performance during his White House years. Judy Davis turns in an admirable performance as a hyper-supportive, controlling Nancy Reagan. I couldn't help but still see shades of Judy Garland in her performance here.
Nancy and Ronnie struggle with many issues not uncommon today: the politics of blended families, the politics within a relationship. The movie dares to suggest that Reagan and Nancy weren't perfect demi-Gods that the conservative portion of our population elevate him to be. Perhaps it's too daring to show this man, this couple, as human, foibles and all, and perhaps, that is the nature of the controversy.
Overall, very little was surprising about this movie, other than showing the onset of Reagan's Alzheimer's disease into his second term, which long has been suspected. It certainly wasn't the tell all bashing of the Reagans as some would like us to believe. If you want a glimpse into the lives of the Reagan, perhaps a perusal of this DVD would be in order.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2006
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
James Brolin is incredible in his portrayal of Ronald Reagan. I did not think he would be convincing at first, but within a few minutes into the film, it was like watching the real Reagan!
Unfortunately, there is some fire beneath the controversial smoke this movie generated. Judy Davis gives a competent performance, as written, but she is no Nancy Reagan. Her portrayal was too brassy, more of a "Mommie Dearest" and there was clearly a lack of sympathy toward her by the writers. Davis is not convincing at all, especially beside Brolin who practically WAS Ronnie. I think the film would have done well to consult with the actual people involved before going into production.
My very first presidential vote went for Reagan in 1984. As a gay man I am among few who can say that with pride. He made a lot of mistakes during his presidency, but not one with any mean-spiritedness. His underlings took care of that part of the administration. For all the liberal extremists who constantly bashed Reagan, calling him a war-monger and ideologue, just look at what's happening now. He actually kept us out of war. Reagan was misled and ill-served by many influential people working under him. He was a naive and trusting man, to a fault.
This film did a good job of portraying what Ronald Reagan was all about, until it got to the issue of AIDS. I see why the family protested. Come on, even Patti, who always bashed her father's policies, resented this film's slant on the AIDS issue. The fact is that Ronald Reagan was an old man, born of another era, who did not know how to address matters of sexuality. AIDS automatically implied sexuality. Reagan was also a surprisingly shy man. His silence was often the simple result of not knowing what to say. I once wrote him a strongly critical letter on the matter of his handling of the AIDS crisis. I now know better. Yes, he was slow to respond. But the deaths that followed would have happened anyway. There is still no cure. Sometimes we American's are just too accustomed to "instant gratification".
The film illustrated quite well how Reagan came to be so pro-corporate in his policies. He had been bought out without even knowing it, thinking the big corporations treated everyone as well as they treated him. He never thought anyone could behave in a manner less honorable than his own, except for communists. The fact of the matter is that Ronald Reagan was probably one of the most decent, principled and honorable men ever to hold the office of President. He could eventually even accept responsibility for his mistakes when he recognized them. How long has it been since we've seen a president do that?
I would love to see another movie about Reagan done with more accuracy and balance, and with James Brolin in the lead role.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2012
"The Reagans" is decent effort to show the rise and presidency of Ronald Reagan. The film starts in the post WWII era, which shows the affable Reagan as as an FDR Democrat who presides over the Screen Actors Guild. From this perspective, the reader sees that Reagan began as an actor and his subsequent path is not so much a movie role as a change with the times. Many people who were not in on the "Reagan Revolution" saw him as front man or figurehead, rather than a real innovative leader. This film shows his reluctance to break with the Democrats (as Hollywood was and is very liberal), yet cites the killing of Kennedy as the turning point in Reagan's life to begin a new direction, as he is sort of propped up (his shift of allegience is rather sudden) as a candidate for California Governor after becoming familiar with Barry Goldwater during the 1964 election. His stance as a bulwark against the California counter culture of the late 1960's is covered rather briefly, but this film shows that as a man, he and Nancy were impacted the same way as many other baby boomer parents.
The political career of the man is also balanced with his personal life, which is an important component to any presidential biopic. I'm not exactly sure on the true relationships he had with his children, but this film portrays them as being very turbulent, with Patty as an unstable and rebellious pot head and Ronald Jr. as a slightly effeminate ballet dancer with questionable sexuality. Reagan seems very typical of the greatest generation in this regard; his baby boomer kids are "exhibitionist" and free spirited.
The acting in this movie was probably its best aspect, with the Ron and Nancy team of James Brolin and Judy Davis showing alot about the dynamics of their professional teamwork. James Brolin is a dead ringer for Reagan, both in his appearence and mannerisms, as Judy Davis shows the personality change that can accompany rising to the top, as many took to calling her "Queen Nancy." While this film is generally even handed, not leaning too hard in one political direction or the other, I found that the Iran Contra scandal plays prominently in creating an intro as well as a conclusion, as Reagan is afraid of ending up like Nixon while Nancy and the White House attempt to conceal his early onset alzheimer's, which the film frames as the cause of some of the bad decision making during his second term. But Reagan was certainly no Nixon, and the likeable and reasonable man come across in Brolin's preformance.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The problem with biopics is that in the real world events happen to people here and there. There is rarely a driving narrative to real people's people's lives. So you watch something like THE REAGANS fascinated by the detail (especially in its portrayal of the Reagan children trying to cope with their closed-off parents), but there's nothing to really be learned from the whole narrative. The Reagans meet and get married, have children; Ronnie runs for governor and then for the presidency four times (twice successfully); he gets shot in office and nearly undone by Iran/Contra, and then they go back to California. That's it.
This miniseries was based on a book about the First Ladies of the US, so Nancy of course figures heavily into it. Judy Davis, inarguably one of the greatest actors living today, would seem born to play the ironwilled Nancy, and she approaches her part with a great deal of intelligence and makes Nancy seem enormously sympathetic even at her most imperious to her husband's staff or at her most firebreating to her children. She even gets to do a musical number, with great panache (Nancy's famous rendition of "Second-Hand Rose" for the Gridiron club), and she is allowed one exceptionally poignant scene (her meeting with her senile mother at a retirement home in the mid 80s). James Brolin fares less well: he looks very much like Reagan, and has the mannerisms and the voice down pat (he's even as good a mimic as President Reagan reportedly was), but he does not project the needed vitality. The Reagan children are well portrayed--lonely and needy Michael, upbeat Maureen, angry Patti (Zoie Palmer, in a particularly fine and furious small performance) and practical Ron Jr.--,but you feel they often get shunted off from the main narrative just as they apparently did in real life from their parents' all-consuming love relationship and political ambition. Republicans were furious before this miniseries aired about its antipathy towards the Reagans' politics, but the only real points it scores against the Reagan administration is in its willful obliviousness to the AIDS crisis.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I liked this flick better than most made for TV movies but understand why Reagan conservatives were upset with it. For nothing about it supports the idea the Ronnie should be placed on Mt. Rushmore, an idea that was once given consideration inside the U.S. Congress. Fortunately, that was an idea that went the way of the dodo bird.
This movie was like a lot of biopics -- it skimmed over portions of the subject that had been discussed in other media. When showing Reagan's strongarm tactics with California college protestors while he served as governor of California in the 1960s, the viewer was given no insight into what made him the epitome of evil to college kids in that time. After all, Country Joe and Fish referred to him as "Ronald Ray-Gun Zap" at Woodstock!
Other vignettes -- including Nancy's "Just say no" campaign and her discussion with the president over funding AIDS prevention -- were equally superficial. Occasionally, however, a scene showed the heart of these two actors turned politicians turned power brokers.
In one scene, Ed Meese calls the president at 4:40 AM to tell him American fighter jets just shot down a couple Libyan jets that fired on them. "It happened five hours ago," Meese said. "It is handled." When returning to sleep, Nancy asked him what the call was. "Oh nothing," he said. "Ed handled it." That's followed by a scene of Nancy lecturing Meese and Mike Deaver on how they are to say the president is always aware of such events five minutes after they occur.
Other scenes of interaction between Reagan, Nancy, their two birth children and Reagan's children from his first marriage showed an uncanny insight into family dysfunction. These were probably the most hated scenes for those that wanted to cast the former president in stone in South Dakota.
Reagan lovers will be pleased to learn there aren't any scenes of him falling asleep at meeting! And while the flick focuses on Reagan's superficiality as both statesman and father, it also shows him to be a loving person and gives him kudos for ending the Cold War. In this respect it reminded me of the ESPN production about Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight, "Season On The Brink", that portrayed both his best and worst sides as a human being.
The plum of this film, however, is Judy Davis's performance as Nancy Reagan. While impossible to say if it was completely factual, it was certainly spiritually correct. This wonderful actress did a splendid job portraying the imperial "Quenn Nancy" wife of the governor and president, as well as her important role as person behind the power in the White House.
While James Brolin did a good job mimicking Reagan it is clearly Davis's portrayal that makes this film compelling and worth watching. Personally, I found the aura projected in the film to be accurate, as well. It played out the highlights of his presidency -- from the earliest budget-cutting and Evil Empire stomping to his eventual conflict with Iran-Contra -- as well as can be done in a few hours. I hope they do this well when they commit the life of two term president George Bush to celluloid!
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2004
This film got my attention because of the controversy, with conservatives demanding it not be shown on CBS. Being a liberal who didn't think much of the Reagans, I expected to see an unfavorable portrayal of the Reagans...but as I watched it, I felt impressed by Ronald Reagan, if he was actually the way James Brolin brilliantly captures him (voice, presence, walk). He comes across as a likeable, funny person who is not much for the details and appears to be mishandled by his cutthroat staff members. James Brolin and Judy Davis deserve Emmy wins for their portrayal of the first couple. Its touching to see how much they obviously love each other through the trials of a public life, even if their relationship to each other came at the expense of their children. I own a few Kennedy movies, and don't recall any attempts at boycotting/censoring those, even if they portrayed JFK's infidelity and health problems. This movie about the Reagans shouldn't surprise anyone who has read the autobiographies/memoirs by Ronald, Nancy, and Patti Davis. This film gave me a renewed appreciation for Reagan as a person and president. Conservatives should take note...if this film was a liberal slam against the former president, then it wouldn't have changed the mind of this liberal regarding him as a person. I still may not like most of his policies, but its hard to fault a funny, decent man that Reagan was. This film stands with "Jefferson in Paris" and "Thirteen Days" as must own movies about real American presidents.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2004
I've voted Republican my whole adult life and view myself as a "Reagan Republican". I watched this movie expecting to get upset at the Barbara Streisand crowd but found it not only believable (if you go in accepting a negative bias of events by the filmmaker) but somewhat compelling. Hey, it is tough to rise above the crowd to become Governor/ President, and it takes people behind the scenes pulling levers to get it done. Most of us don't have the stomach to play politics, Nancy and Mike Deaver did and Ronny was the perfect front man- likeable, principled, simplistic but able to communicate a vision most people found desirable. We all came to respect Nancy deeply for standing by President Reagan in his declining years, but we also knew she played hardball with his staff, was an eccentric Hollywood type. That's the way the movie plays it and I can't see what the problem is. Brolin does an admirable job and Judy Davis is great regardless of how accurately Nancy gets portrayed here. Deaver seems to have screamed the loudest about this flick, probably because early-on he's painted as pretty slick, although that seems to change after Reagan fires/rehires him during the 1980 campaign. Watch it- it's complicated but that's the world we live in, folks.
on July 13, 2013
I notice there is alot of liberals on here, who say they see Reagan in a different light after watching this film, a positive light. I would like to say I am the opposite. I am a conservative who watched the film, and I feel the film degraded Reagan. I just wonder how much of the film parallels the reality. When the film portrays different events, historical events, it seems right on top of it. But the specifics events in this film that I think bring Reagan down, is depicted by Nancy Reagan making tons of political decisions for Reagan, and when she didn't, she influenced him by just talking to him about it, until he would bend to her and do what she says. Even Republicans who liked Reagans charisma, couldnt persuade him to run, so they persuaded his wife who in turn persuaded him to run for governor of California and then President. Seemed a little co-erced in my opinion, until the ball was rolling and he just ran with it.
In the film, Reagan has memory issues around 1986, which is related to the whole contra problem in Iran, as to why he didnt admit sooner to telling the American people about it-his administration played a dirty role in letting the contra event happen, which is true and many of them were in trouble with the law realistically. In addition, when Nancy wanted someone fired because she thinks its right, and perhaps it was, Reagan didnt have any backbone to withstand her beliefs, and eventually he just did as she pleased. This movie, had me thinking all day how true and accurate that was. As someone who has studied Reagan for about 5 years and going to his library and studying him in school, I already know alot, especially because I am a political science major and he is my favorite president. I can tell you 90% of this movie is right on, except for the few things I mentioned about Nancy dictating decisions for him, I dont know to what degree that is true or if its true at all. In the film, she even plays a person who tries to be a go between Reagan and his doctor, and also a go between between Reagans political aids, to the degree where she could try to make decisions for him by knowing knowledge before him. I quote she even tells one of the aids "Tell the public, the president is always aware of everything", when its clear in the film, that he doesnt know everything, he had some dirty officials, and in my opinion the film depicted Nancy as dirty for being a go between/decision maker/influential to Reagan, though I still love and respect her in real life. Reagan in reality, fired up people, came off as strong, charismatic, patriotic etc, everything a leader has. In the film he comes off this way in front of crowds, and at times with staff, but soft and spineless when speaking to people one on one. The film overall, is great to watch because they were so on top of showing great detail that was true in his life, especially, how they didnt pay much attention to there kids. I dont think the film was ment to be degrading or promoting, it was very realistic. For me though, it degraded Reagan. I can see how some of the Liberals here see him in a better light with it.