By the People Has Access, Little Else
Critics split on virtues of Obama doc with little dish
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2009 12:12 PM CST

(Newser) – Critics agree the HBO's By the People, a record of the Obama campaign produced by Edward Norton, offers behind-the-scenes access but no real scoops. But what some see as a heartwarming tale of triumph, others find fawning. A sampling:

  • The naivete of the filmmakers shows through for Hank Stuever. "Gradually, their access seems to dry up without them really knowing it," he writes in the Washington Post. What's left "is really more like a souvenir for campaign staffers."

  • Nina Metz, writing in the Chicago Tribune, echoes a common sentiment: By the People is no War Room, the 1993 doc on the Clinton campaign. There's "no sense of the subtle inner workings of the campaign or personalities running it. More often then not, subjects are interviewed rather than observed."
  • But for Katie Baker, writing on Mediaite, the doc is like a good tearjerker. "Viewing the early days of the Obama campaign is like walking a friend to her surprise birthday party: You’re secretly giddy about what’s in store."
  • That giddy focus doesn't get past the early days, Joe Gandelman writes on the Moderate Voice. "The bulk of it is about Obama deciding to run, and running for the nomination." The economic troubles that arguably secured Obama's victory are mentioned "in passing," and "you could almost call John McCain’s role a 'cameo.'"