Bob Roberts (Robbins, in his first film as writer/director) is a senatorial candidate in Pennsylvania in 1990. As a successful folk-singer, he knows how to use easy sentiment and emotive words to win support for his reactionary manifesto; as a self-made millionaire who took against a '60s childhood spent in a hippy commune, he is the living embodiment of the materialistic message he preaches; and he knows how to conduct a ruthless smear campaign against his rival, incumbent Democrat Senator Paiste (Vidal). Presenting itself as a documentary, Bob Roberts is not merely a satirical fictional biopic, but a wry exploration of the relationship between political reality and manufactured image, showing how far contemporary politics has been reduced by the media to the level of easy-to-handle entertainment. It does have flaws, but its confidence and courage in going against the grain of an increasingly conservative America are impressive.
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