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If there’s a whiff of desperation in all things political, Caucus—-AJ Schnack‘s documentary chronicling the behind-the-scenes machinations of the 2012 Iowa Caucus—-reeks of failed ambition and boundless folly. For anyone who has forgotten the high drama of last year’s Republican presidential field (how is that possible?), a brief refresher: $10,000 bets, peculiar pronunciations of “nominee,” and Big Bird’s cozy relationship with Big Government.

There are a few genuinely surprising moments within Caucus’ lengthy 104-minute running time—-Rick Perry’s encounter with a World War II veteran is quite touching—-but the film struggles to milk drama from a story whose ending is likely etched in the viewer’s memory. And despite the candor of its backstage access, the film has little new to say about a cast of characters whose good fortunes oscillated at breakneck speed.

Here, Rick Santorum comes across as smug and self-satisfied whereas Michelle Bachmann‘s ambition far outweighs her grasp of the issues. Newt Gingrich looks like a pompous bully. If these descriptions sound familiar—-and they should—-it is because they were the same characteristics the American public was bombarded with a mere 18 months ago. For a film populated with candidates focused on the issues important to everyday Americans, Caucus largely appeals to one of the most maligned of all audiences: Washington insiders.

The film shows Saturday June 22 at 8 p.m. at the National Portrait Gallery.

Outbrain