Bulworth  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Bulworth is a 1998 American political satire dark comedy film co-written, co-produced, directed by, and starring Warren Beatty. It co-stars Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, Don Cheadle, Paul Sorvino, Jack Warden, and Isaiah Washington. The film follows the title character, California Senator Jay Billington Bulworth (Beatty), as he runs for re-election while trying to avoid a hired assassin. The film received generally positive reviews and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay yet narrowly failed to break even on a $30 million budget.

Contents

Plot

In March 1996, fictional Democratic U.S. Senator Jay Bulworth of California appears to be losing his primary bid for re-election to a fiery young populist. Bulworth's liberal views, formed in the 1960s and 1970s, have lost favor with voters, so he has conceded to more conservative politics and to accepting donations from big corporations. While he and his wife have been having affairs with each other's knowledge for years, they must still present a happy facade in the interest of maintaining a good public image.

Tired of politics, unhappy with his life in general, and planning to commit suicide, Bulworth negotiates a $10 million life insurance policy with his daughter as the beneficiary in exchange for a favorable vote from the insurance industry. Knowing that a suicide will void his daughter's inheritance, he contracts to have himself assassinated within two days.

Turning up in California for his campaign extremely drunk, Bulworth freely begins speaking his mind at public events and in the presence of the C-SPAN film crew following his campaign. After dancing all night in an underground club and smoking marijuana, he even starts rapping in public. His frank, potentially offensive remarks make him an instant media darling and re-energize his campaign. Along the way he becomes romantically involved with a young black activist named Nina, who tags along with him on his campaign stops. He is pursued by the paparazzi, his insurance company, his campaign managers and an increasingly adoring public, all the while fearful of his impending assassination.

After a televised debate during which Bulworth drinks from a flask on air and derides insurance companies and the American healthcare system, he decides to hide at Nina's family's home, located in the South Central Los Angeles ghetto. While there he wanders around the neighborhood, where he witnesses a group of kids selling crack, and buys the group ice cream. After saving the group from a racially motivated encounter with a police officer, he finds out they are "soldiers" of L.D., a local drug kingpin to whom Nina's brother owes money. Bulworth eventually makes it to a television appearance arranged earlier by his campaign manager, during which he raps and repeats verbatim statements that Nina and L.D. have told him about the lives of poor black people and their opinions of various American institutions, like education and employment. Eventually he offers the solution that "everybody should fuck everybody" until everyone is "all the same color" stunning the audience and his interviewer.

After Bulworth's TV appearance (at the end of which one mysterious assassination attempt occurs) he escapes with Nina and goes with her back to her house where she reveals that she is the assassin he indirectly hired (ostensibly to make the money needed to pay off the debt her brother owes to L.D.) and will now not carry out the job. Relieved, Bulworth falls asleep for the first time in days in Nina's arms. Bulworth sleeps deeply for over 36 hours (with Nina tenderly watching over him), during which time the media is abuzz about his mysterious absence on election day. During this time, various people are shown reacting to the TV coverage and the impact Bulworth's escapade is making on the political/social conversation in the country (race, poverty, inequity, greed). Bulworth wins the primary election by a landslide.

The next morning the press and Bulworth's campaign managers converge on Nina's house, all eager to talk to him. L.D. also comes to Nina's house and, having had a change of heart, says he will let Nina's brother work off his debt instead of hurting or killing him. Bulworth emerges from the bedroom looking rested and, as he steps outside, he invites Nina to go with him; she eventually joins him, after some hesitation. Bulworth and Nina embrace and begin to kiss as people cheer. As Bulworth happily accepts a new campaign for the presidency, he is suddenly shot in front of the crowd of reporters and supporters by an agent of the insurance company lobbyists, who were fearful of Bulworth's recent push for single-payer health care.

Bulworth's fate is left ambiguous. The final scene shows an elderly vagrant, whom Bulworth met previously, standing alone outside a hospital. He exhorts Bulworth, who is presumably inside, to not be "a ghost" but "a spirit" which, as he had mentioned earlier, can only happen if you have "a song". In the final shot of the film, he asks the same of the audience.

Cast

Template:Castlist

Production

Beatty first pitched the film in 1992 under the basic pitch of a depressed man putting a hit on himself for the life insurance before falling in love. 20th Century Fox executive Joe Roth approved of the pitch and a budget of $30 million before Beatty got to work on the point of view in politics that would take center stage for the film, with Beatty taking input from writers such as Jeremy Pikser, James Toback and Aaron Sorkin (who reportedly did a re-write on the script). Beatty, long involved in politics since his first hero of Robert Kennedy, wanted to make a film that would strike the perceived notion that politics had become too absorbed in polls and fundraising while losing sight on the issues that matters most. Beatty styled his film in hip-hop and rap because of the "great comic contrast" that would come from it.

Cultural legacy

In 2013, The New York Times reported that President Barack Obama had, in private, "talked longingly of 'going Bulworth,'" in reference to the film.



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