After Richard Nixon died, vague niceties arose about his foreign policies, and Oliver Stone's "Nixon" painted him as a complicated victim of a botched little scheme that went out of control. Refreshing after such revisionism, Fleming's film "Dick" shows that the old enemy is still worth hating. An absurd rewrite of history, it follows two ridiculous, completely charming teenagers, Arlene and Betsy (Williams and Dunst) as they stumble into the Watergate mess and change the course of events. Cowriters Fleming and Longin show Nixon only to have fun with him in an elaborate, inventive "what if." Fleming's only sympathy is for his deep, recurrent cluelessness: Dick is an insidious buffoon. But the silly young women, giggling when they learn the meaning of "deep throat," aren't to be laughed at. Their naive enthusiasm and surprise at finding evil in a seemingly nice guy like Dick instead touch us.
One night, they run into a weird guy lurking in a stairwell at the Watergate, where Arlene lives. On a school tour of the White House later, they see him again: He's G. Gordon Liddy (Shearer), rather than a thief. He recognizes them, and hauls them into the Oval Office so the President and he can find out what they know. Nixon figures how to keep an eye on them: he makes them official White House dog-walkers. Thus the pair stumble more deeply into Dick's schemes. They open a door on staffers at paper-shredders (Dick soothes them by saying it's only for his hobby of papier-mâché), and accidentally discovers a tape recorder in Rose Mary Woods' desk. Betsy persuades Arlene, still smitten with Dick, to record her true feelings: Her breathy vow and rendition of Olivia Newton-John's "I Honestly Love You," lasts exactly 18.5 minutes.
The madness escalates. Hedaya as Nixon shows rage, resentment, and confusion in his eyebrows; Dick is a comic villain. Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," is perfect for watching Nixon leave the White House in disgrace. As he boards his helicopter, we hear it as he looks down on Arlene and Betsy's banner, "You suck, Dick!" Fleming reminds us that Nixon wasn't thinking of us.
Andrew Fleming and Sheryl Longin
Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dan Hedaya, Harry Shearer, Will Ferrell, Saul Rubinek
Nixon, Watergate, changing history, what-if
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