It’s petty, but for the last minutes of Knock Down the House I could only fixate on the psychology of a man who wears shorts as his girlfriend ousts an incumbent politician of some two decades live on national TV.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, now a Democratic congresswoman in the US, would justifiably be irked that I mention her man Riley Roberts first as I review a film centred on her surprise win in New York’s 14th congressional district. I can only plead that, given the film’s fixation on appearances, it’s fair.
Over an hour and a half the film charts the campaign of an underdog Democrat faction against House of Representatives incumbents in Missouri, Nevada, New York, and West Virginia. Director Rachel Lears sought out charismatic female candidates, according to Vanity Fair, following another surprise victory: president Donald Trump’s.
The symbol of the young, female of Puerto Rican heritage Ocasio-Cortez ousting pale, stale male Joe Crowley caps a film that oozes diversity, at least of the visible sort. As Ocasio-Cortez puts it: “I’m running to represent the Bronx. I’m a third generation Bronxite. I’m a Latina. I’m a Boricua. I’m a descendent of Taino Indians. I’m a descendent of African slaves. I’m proud to be an American.”
Though the other candidates Amy Vilela (Nevada), Cori Bush (Missouri), and Paula Jean Swearengin (West Virginia) prove unsuccessful in their campaigns, they share an energy of people previously outside of politics taking on the gammons in Washington with their fat corporate payoffs.
At points Ocasio-Cortez makes this explicit, telling a hustings: “While I know women tend to be made responsible for the actions of every man in the room, I am not.”
That Crowley, as an Irish-American, would have been a struggling minority not so long ago in American history is an irony not noted in the film. Though he was happy to turn up to LGBT pride events and wave some rainbow flags, one suspects his pale, stale, maleness worked against him.
Contrasting the stuffiness of the men in grey suits further is an amusing scene where Ocasio-Cortez “takes up space” by flapping her arms about to prepare herself psychologically for a debate against old man Crowley. Her mindfulness mantras and mawkish musings on her backstory are a bit much, though doubtless play well with a certain crowd.
The focus on the new replacing the old extends to a nod to Ocasio-Cortez’s rising social media popularity in the latter stages of the film. Momentum in the UK will doubtless recognise this, perhaps reflecting on Jeremy Corbyn’s infamous scrape with a sympathetic documentarian that made him look less savvy.
Social media moguls are, like Ocasio-Cortez’s boyfriend, fond of casual wear. But even Facebook’s chief Mark Zuckerberg now wears a suit when confronting the political comprises even shiny new things can’t bypass. I suspect, for all appearances, the diversocrats face a similar future.
Image based on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, March 2019 by nrkbeta