After 80 minutes of watching two famous assholes sling mud at each other, Best of Enemies tries to wring some message from the whole affair: The debates held by conservative blowhard dick William F Buckley Jr. and left-wing blowhard dick Gore Vidal on ABC in 1968 are directly responsible for Fox News and MSNBC. Maybe, maybe not (probably), though it’s downright quaint pretending one network (Fox News) is not more evil than the other (MSNBC). The idea that Al Sharpton is as dangerous as Sean Hannity is absurd.
Best of Enemies is strongest when it lets its two lead characters have at it. Less interesting is what lasting effect the debates had on them personally. What you really need to know is that a large group of white people bought Buckley’s shtick—conservative everything is great; fear everyone different from you—and he’s the reason we have Reagan, Bush 1 and Bush 2.
Yeah, yeah, reductive. Whatever. Buckley is the guy who said to Vidal on live television, “Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.” That’s your hero of the right, folks. A guy with bad hair and stupid ideas. It would be a joke if there weren’t a guy with bad hair and stupid ideas sitting atop the Republican field right now.
As for the movie? Entertaining, empty. You won’t learn anything you didn’t know about conservatism or liberalism. Kind of a missed opportunity, really, but it’s hard to assign demerits because it’s so fun to watch.
BEST OF ENEMIES
Directed by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon
With Buckley and Vidal