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Mayor Pete (A Movie Review)

Updated: Sep 27, 2023


Featuring Pete Buttigieg and Chasten Buttigieg.

Written by Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss, Jeff Gilbert.

Directed by Jesse Moss.

Distributed by Amazon Studios. 96 minutes. Rated R.

Screened at the 2021 Philadelphia Film Festival.

Pete Buttigieg came from out of nowhere (well, South Bend, Indiana) to briefly (for the eight days between the 2020 Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary) become the leading candidate for the Democratic nominee for President.

He ended up falling back into the pack and losing the nomination to Joe Biden, but just the idea that he was that popular, even for a short time, was pretty stunning.

After all, he had a lot of obstacles to overcome just to be in the conversation. He would have been the youngest President ever. His biggest previous experience was as the mayor of a mid-sized city, so he would have been taking a huge jump in responsibilities. He was the only openly gay candidate to ever run for the office of President.

Yet, Buttigieg’s obvious intellect (he was a Rhodes Scholar who speaks eight languages fluently), bravery (he was also an Afghan war veteran), compassion and ability to communicate made him a natural politician. Even if he did not end up running the crowded field, he grew a strong following, and the run became a springboard into a probable long career in politics.

His former opponent, President Biden, recognized his talents by naming him Secretary of Transportation in his cabinet.

Mayor Pete follows Buttigieg and his husband Chasten through the heady early days of the campaign. It’s a fly on the wall look at the highs and the lows of the process. Documentarian Jesse Moss (Boys State) turned the lens on the Presidential hopeful and his campaign staff as they tried to negotiate things like stumping, the debates and a tragic police shooting in Buttagieg’s town of South Bend which became a firestorm during the campaign.

It also shows Buttagieg dealing with his natural position as an inspiration for LGBTQ youth and his own history of dealing with coming out.

The film looks at Buttagieg’s negatives – he was so intellectual that he sometimes came off as unfeeling and he also had trouble connecting to black voters – as well as his positives.

However, perhaps the most intriguing moments tended to be quiet moments between Mayor Pete and husband Chasten. Their connection is particularly clear in a scene where Chasten tries to calm an obviously tense Pete down before an Iowa speech by firing off a series of bad puns about cows and meat.

And the most amazing thing is that all this just happened a little over a year ago.

Even though he did not reach his aspiration of the Presidency – at least not yet – Mayor Pete is an interesting look behind the scenes of the creation of a political force. In a particularly fraught moment in national politics, Mayor Pete gives you hope that maybe competency and compassion still has a place in higher office.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: November 2, 2021.


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