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'The Apprentice' is the most brutal Donald Trump biopic imaginable

'The Apprentice' is the most brutal Donald Trump biopic imaginable

 


Every superhero has an origin story. This is also the case for most supervillains. The Apprentice takes viewers to New York City circa 1973, when a 34-year-old Queens resident walked into the upscale Upper West Side establishment known as The Club. He went there to try to impress a young woman. He would leave after meeting a well-known lawyer and a well-connected member of New York's elite, who would ultimately change his life. The legal eagle was the famous Roy Cohn. The challenger on the outskirts of the district was Donald Trump.

Director Ali Abbasi knows he's playing with fire in attempting to trace the early years of the former POTUS and current trial defendant, focusing on how the brash young real estate developer learned his deflection techniques , trash-talking and Teflon. the omnipresence of the tabloids at the feet of a man who had mastered this sort of thing since the McCarthy era. And yet, the Iranian-Danish filmmaker never stops detailing how well the student absorbed his teacher's lessons. You can't accuse the film of pulling its punches. The Apprentice is a biopic, which begins from the moment Trump and Cohn lock eyes in a crowded room – the beginning of most great love stories – and ends with Cohn's death in 1986 from complications linked to AIDS. But above all it is a remake of Frankenstein, in which a mad scientist plays Pygmalion and watches his creation transform into a monster.

At this point in his career, Trump – played with equal amounts of oil, vinegar and venom by Sebastian Stan, in a performance that is less an impersonation than an indictment through a thousand characteristic cuts – is bad. side of a binary equation. . People are either killers or losers, his father, Fred (Martin Donovan), tells him. Donald is a loser, forced to knock on doors and collect rent checks from his father's tenants. When he meets Cohn (Jeremy Strong), who is holding court with an entourage of courtiers and gangsters at a central booth, the Trump family business is being sued for housing discrimination. The man who still brags about having sent Ethel Rosenberg to the electric chair attacks the handsome blond Don; he knows this big contender punches way above his weight class, but Cohn thinks he can turn him into another power broker. He takes the deal but doesn't accept Donald's check. His friendship, the lawyer says, is the only payment. Plus, the favors are poker chips. Like the private recordings he keeps of his other famous and scandalous clients during consultations, Cohn likes to have a little insurance on the side, just in case. Editor's Choice

The details of Cohn's mentorship are well known at this point, including how he taught Trump the three key elements of what would become the reality TV president's standard operating procedures: attack, deny, and turn every defeat into victory. However, seeing them played out in a story that takes its audience's knowledge of the game's eventual ending for granted still leaves you unsettled, enraged, and in desperate need of a steel wool cleaning. Abbasi is not a subtle filmmaker, and his need to provoke sometimes undermines his arguments; his previous film, the serial killer thriller Holy Spider (2022), was a commentary on social misogyny that inadvertently courted the very thing it was trying to criticize. Here, brutal force works in favor of his film. The extent of the widely described bad behavior, especially as Trump surpasses his tutor as New York's number one immoral bigwig in the 1980s, gives you a good idea of ​​how the mogul's worst qualities played out. metastasized in the media spotlight. Cohn taught him well, and fame only served to curdle him further. You see Trump snooping, backtracking, backstabbing, talking twice, lying, cheating, stealing. You also see him rape his wife.

Yes, it goes there. The Apprentice has already sparked numerous controversies: Cannes-troversy? – about a sequence in which the 45th President of the United States sexually assaults his then-wife, Ivana Trump. Played by Borat 2 star Maria Bakalova, Ivana is seduced by the rich guy who can't stop, who can't stop, who pursues her, and smart enough to balk at a pre-nup who would force her to return any “gifts” her partner gave her in the event of a divorce. She also serves as a human counterpoint to Trump's increasingly crude, vulgar, and power-hungry “killer” attitude, and to his isolation after the death of his troubled “loser” brother Freddy (Charlie Carrick).

After she suggests he rekindle the spark in their marriage via a book about the G-spot, Donald tells her he's no longer attracted to her. Then he rapes her on the ground. The incident was detailed in a deposition by Ivana and reported in the 1993 biography Lost Tycoon by Henry Hill III. She later disavowed this claim, but the film unequivocally presents the incident as a non-consensual, violent and criminal act. The Trump campaign has vowed to take legal action to have the footage removed. At a press conference for the film, Abbasi did not address the scene in question, although he did mention that they hoped to release the full film in U.S. theaters in September, before the election.

Even without this particular, sickening example of Trump's “I can do whatever I want” attitude as he climbed the ladder of fame and fortune, The Apprentice would still feel like a damning portrait of someone who became one of the most controversial figures. figures in American history. It doesn't do Cohn any favors either – although Strong does some of the best work of his career here – although at least the lawyer never loses his sense of loyalty. It's something Trump abandons as soon as he no longer needs it or suits him, and even though he's throwing a birthday dinner for his dying friend, you see his team fumigating the furniture every second where Cohn went. It's a film that wants you to know how Trump became the man he is today and how another infamous participant in our nation's descent into moral freefall activated something deep in this fighter from Queens. Call it The Art of the Deal With the Devil – I hope it comes to a theater very near you soon (or at least not until it's too late).

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