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An Unreasonable Man

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Whether you love Ralph Nader, or once loved him -- then hated him after the 2000 presidential election -- this feisty, provocative profile of the longtime consumer advocate turned independent political candidate is fascinating. Both filmmakers, Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan, have pop-culture backgrounds (TV sitcoms, standup) that likely helped them assemble a lot of policy discussion and insider-politics into an entertaining character study of a life still in progress. It's the stuff of classical drama: the hero, an Everyman David fighting Goliath, undone by his greatest strengths, tenacity and conviction. They favor interviews over narration, letting pro and con Nader associates, politicians, scholars and wonks, along with Nader himself -- candid, articulate and bemused -- tell the story. Some fret that Nader's tremendous accomplishments (from auto safety to clean air to product labeling) will be lost in the wake of the 2000's toxic partisan politics. Characteristically, Nader dismisses notions of a damaged legacy and appears emboldened by the issues his "spoiler" candidacy stirred up. The filmmakers, who clearly adore Nader, nonetheless strive for fair-mindedness; you can still sulk about Nader 2000 after this film, but not without acknowledging what he once won for us all, and admitting there should be more uncompromising warriors -- on any issue -- out there. Starts Fri., March 9. Harris (AH)

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