Borrowing its title from a line in George Bernard Shaw's Man or Superman, An Unreasonable Man ponders the most popular pundit of the last few years while quietly pocking the bloated corpses of both parties with a rather sharp stick. Revving up in the mid-late-'60s, directors Henriette Mantel
and Steve Skrovan
pursue the career course of Ralph Nader
, the good man from Connecticut who got a large chunk of the blame for the Dubya
Using magazine covers that haven't seen the light of day since Grandma cleaned out the basement and footage of congressional committees, the film explores where Nader first quenched his thirst for positive upkeep. In the mid-'60s, as a public interest lawyer, Nader was one of the first people to really study and research car safety laws. His work would later become the basis for including airbags and seatbelts in most cars along with several modifications to the car structure and look that was popular in the '60s.This would also garner him a scandal that entailed him being investigated by private eyes hired by General Motors. Plodding through interviews and video clips, the dust is effectively blown off of Nader's importance and why he was such a popular pick for a third party candidate. Never heard of Nader's Raiders? Well, prep your eyes and ears for the shakedown. It's all good deeds, reasonable or not, for Nader, and Skrovan and Mantel are genuinely indebted to his efforts. Article continues below
It's not till the "it" happens that we are given the other side… sort of. The "it" refers to Nader's bid on the Green Party ticket for the 2000 Presidential Election and his subsequent tar-and-feathering from the Democratic Party for "losing" Al Gore
the election. Detractors (only two are interviewed) aren't very articulate on their points of objection, but it's obvious that their rage is a sincere belief that Nader caused Bush's ascension to the oval office.
Informative and surprisingly engaging, An Unreasonable Man seems a fitting doctrine for Nader, but, like most political documentaries, it can't plant its feet on the ground. Mantel and Skrovan, both alumni of the Everybody Loves Raymond series, can't help but shape the documentary as a campaign for the whole-hearted respect of the muckraker (this is complemented by the fact that Skrovan herself is a former Nader Raider).
What is terrifically interesting is the way it gives an honest perspective on both parties as the bratty behemoths they are. Though the right has been attracting potshots since little boy Bush stepped into the White House, Skrovan and Mantel also point a rather blatant finger at the whiney left that blamed Nader and the Green Party for all their woes. It's a good mixture, but it all comes back to Nader's disputed sainthood and the debate is heavily stacked. It seems easy to like Nader and that's the problem: There's no serious conflict to the feeling that he is a true reformist with not a speck of dirt in his past. Since one is given little intelligent feedback from the opposing opinion, I am forced to continue to think of Nader as I always did: Real decent guy, but ditch the lame Eddie Vedder concerts next campaign.