This is the thirtieth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 30 is called "'Playwrights Turned Screenwriters: Mamet Week".
Our main challenge is an examination of writers switching mediums, with their filmographies including adaptations and original screenplays. You can see how well their writing transfers over from stage to screen.
This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film written by David Mamet.
Not sure how this slipped by me over the years ... I was always intrigued by the premise, wherein a presidential adviser cooks up a phony war to distract attention away from an affair the president has had just before election day. I run hot and cold with Mamet. I liked The Untouchables, for which he wrote the script, but that movie has Brian De Palma all over it, so I wouldn't say Mamet was the guiding force. The only movie I've seen that he directed was House of Games, which I liked but can't recall. In short, while I watched this because Mamet wrote it, my response to the movie wasn't really affected by Mamet one way or the other.
It was fun watching Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman play off of each other, and they were clearly having fun, as well. Anne Heche wasn't handled as well ... she brings quirkiness to her roles, but here, quirky was all they gave her. They (Mamet? Levinson?) let her down. I can't stand Denis Leary, so I was surprised that his role was fairly small and not as obnoxious as usual.
As for the plot, it was clearly meant to feel real in that way satire does by exaggerating the possibilities we live in. But I thought too often the point was the gullibility and stupidity of the people, who are shown as being willing to fall for anything if the people doing the trickery are smart enough. I've never liked that kind of angle, and I didn't like it here.
So for me, Wag the Dog had some enjoyable acting, but didn't deserve the feel of self-satisfaction it exuded.