Get Me Roger Stone, the newly released Netflix documentary that explores Stone’s colorful career in politics, is worth your time to watch even if you hate Roger Stone. Especially if you hate Roger Stone, because you might learn how he gets under his haters’ skin so effectively.
Get Me Roger Stone will polarize Americans, in much the same way that the 2016 election of Donald Trump did. Fans of Roger Stone will watch the movie as just short of a love letter, even the parts showing Stone’s political warts, while Stone’s opponents will leave the experience disliking him even more.
The film is immersed in Stone’s philosophy, even creating a loose narrative structure out of “Stone’s Rules” which include things like “business is business,” and “better to be infamous than never famous at all.” Stone’s famous fashion sense is displayed just as prominently in the film as any of the interviewees; in fact, his suits are practically a character in the documentary. The title is taken from a Stone quote showing his clear understanding of how fleeting fame can be, especially in politics. He remarks, “first they say ‘who is Roger Stone,’ then they say ‘get me Roger Stone,’ then they say ‘get me a Roger Stone type,’ and finally, they say ‘who is Roger Stone.'”
The coverage of the 2016 election in this film shows that we are still firmly in the “get me Roger Stone” stage. The filmmakers have gone to great lengths throughout the film to tie the story of Donald Trump’s election to Roger Stone — their poster is a depiction of a Trump matryoshka doll with Roger Stone inside. This is one of their more clever digs at Trump, but many others either fall flat or feel heavy-handed.
For example, during a montage about lobbying in the 1980s set to Dire Straights’ “Money for Nothing,” Trump Tower flashes by in a montage that mainly focuses on Washington, D.C. In another instance, Black Lives Matter protestors are shown before a cut to police officers, while the accompanying music includes the lyric “C’mon boys, take him down!” Stone knew who he was working with during filming; at several points he refers to the filmmakers as liberals and “Commies.” It is clear throughout that the political leanings of the filmmakers don’t phase Stone either way, perhaps due to a lifetime of working with (and battling) a liberal media.
Get Me Roger Stone follows a pattern of showing historical events from Stone’s career intercut with comments from Stone himself, along with an impressive cast of interviewees. President Donald Trump was interviewed before his election victory and is joined by Tucker Carlson, Paul Manafort, and journalists like Jeffrey Toobin and Jane Mayer. Toobin and Mayer, along with Wayne Barrett, form the backbone of the liberal response to Stone throughout the film. A trend emerges in which we view particular events from Stone’s political career, and then Toobin, Mayer, and sometimes Barrett are quoted to explain how disgusting and wrong Roger Stone is.
Toobin, in particular, stands out as a vociferous critic. Early in the film he calls Roger Stone the “sinister Forrest Gump of American politics.” Later he goes so far as to claim that racism is the basis for Trump’s political appeal. Even before the late section of the film dealing with the election and its aftermath, it is clear to the viewer that Toobin and the other liberal journalists interviewed in the film were in the dark about what was actually happening during the election cycle. Tucker Carlson makes that specific point when he says, “Roger gets democracy in a way most people who cover politics don’t.”
Get Me Roger Stone provides valuable historical context to Stone’s career and the recent history of the Republican party. It will be eye-opening for younger conservatives to see liberals in the early 1980s bemoaning a Republican party willing to fight. Similarly, the film shows just how deeply Roger Stone is embedded in the minds of the media that attempts to cover him. It becomes obvious throughout the film no one is exactly sure what Stone is responsible for and what he just claims to be responsible for. Viewers will see him blamed for everything from forging documents to costing Dan Rather his job to creating the birther movement. (Of course, we know Hillary Clinton created the birther movement.) Even a documentary about Roger Stone seems to include the unique brand of confusion he seems capable of sowing — a segment focusing on Stone’s (and Trump’s) connection to conspiracy theories flows directly into coverage of Russian hacking, which has be shown to be a conspiracy theory in its own right.
Stone says at the end of the movie, “I revel in their hatred.” This isn’t an exaggeration — try watching the movie a second time and only focusing on when Roger Stone smiles widely. You’ll find his widest smiles both in interviews and in older footage is when he has gotten under people’s skin. Some examples I noted are when he is called “a little rat,” or when he says “my parents called me on the phone, they were mortified.”
This documentary also shows that Roger Stone is more than a dirty trickster or “dark legend” to his allies, or “Soulless” to Jeffrey Toobin. It demonstrates that Stone has been a canny operative for decades in an industry that isn’t known for long careers. It also shows how he was key in identifying so-called Reagan Democrats, an approach that was similarly successful for the Trump campaign. You even see a softer side (there is one) of Roger Stone with his family.
Technically, the documentary is very well put together, seamlessly combining old footage, new interviews, and coverage of Stone’s events and actions in 2016. The quality of Netflix’s original films is apparent with this project.
The music can be distracting at times; I would have preferred less music especially during interview segments. The only other downside of note with Get Me Roger Stone is the predictability of some of its content. It includes the requisite, “I’m not a crook,” quote from Nixon, “they’re turning the frogs gay” from Alex Jones, and the vulgar comments Trump made to Billy Bush. None of these are particularly out of place in the film, but the viewer is able to predict their inclusion and almost when they will be played in the documentary.
Regardless of these minor flaws, Get Me Roger Stone is both entertaining and instructive. The filmmakers have succeeded in creating a fascinating story about a career arc that spanned from Watergate to Trump’s election victory and carries on today. Get Me Roger Stone is available for viewing only on Netflix.
Colin Madine is a contributor and editor at Breitbart News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org