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February 2, 2014

CEPEDA: Something missing in 'Mitt'

“Why would you want to watch a movie about Mitt Romney?” my son asked me as I queued up Netflix.

Because I wanted a better answer to the question I got most in the run-up to Election Day 2012: “Why don’t you hate Mitt Romney?”

Well, gosh, I don’t hate anyone. But, maybe the fact that I actually use words like “gosh” (and “smitten,” “darn” and “heck”) puts me into a special class of people (perhaps we’re “1 percenters” of a sort) who talk “old-timey,” as Romney’s diction has been described.

Linguistic parallels aside, unlike most females, racial minorities and non-millionaires, I didn’t despise the Republican standard-bearer — even after his seeming put-down of 47 percent of Americans — though I also didn’t adore him. I figured the movie would give me the opportunity to get beyond Romney’s wooden public persona and get to know the man who could have been president.

I was disappointed.

This is not a Republican video version of the soap opera-ish book “Double Down: Game Change 2012” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.

Filmmaker Greg Whiteley opens “Mitt” on election night 2012. A stricken circle of Romney family members and confidants begins to realize he has lost the race. Romney, ever levelheaded and considerate of propriety, asks who has the president’s phone number so he can call to concede.

As we get to know the “real” Mitt (he wears gloves patched with duct tape), we learn from his family what a colossal drag it is that Dad is running for president.

It is, by turns, awful, frustrating, sorrowful and grueling. There are endless car rides, identically bland hotel rooms, and annoying challenges. But so much love.

Really — So. Very. Much. Love.

His children and spouse are so doting, adoring and plainly awestruck by him, it becomes cringe-inducing. Lovely at first, but then perplexing. Surely at some point during the Romney family’s quixotic journey someone got crabby or angry or even a tiny bit disheveled. But we never see anything even hinting at the sort of natural tensions that come with the high-wire act of a presidential campaign.

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