The biographical details will also be familiar to anyone who paid close attention to politics in 2016 (or any time since the 1990s). There was the childhood in the “Leave It to Beaver” Illinois suburbs of the 1950s, and the early brushes with sexism, as when young Hillary ran for student council president and lost to a boy who then asked her to do all the actual work of running the school organizations. (“Of course I said yes,” Clinton volunteers in an interview, “because I was interested in the work.”)
She gained early fame in 1969 for giving an inspiring, generationally charged commencement speech at Wellesley College, met her future husband at Yale Law School and moved to Arkansas. She practiced law and, after Bill was elected governor, eventually took his surname as a concession to the culture of the time and place. She would be criticized for everything from her job to her hair.
“Every battle we had fought at Yale abstractly, she was actually fighting,” her classmate Nancy Gertner recalls of those Arkansas days.
So far, so political-convention-clip-reel. “Hillary” frankly admires Clinton as a pioneer and champion, down to the opening titles, a torrent of still portraits that burst onscreen to the Interrupters’ punk anthem “Take Back the Power.” While it interviews a wide range of defenders, including her husband and daughter, it tends to quote her critics more through strident news clips.
But where “Hillary” stands out is how it finds in Clinton’s early years the foreshadowing of all the attacks she would face in 2008 and 2016 — not just flat-out sexism, but the charges of inauthenticity that connected to her learned defense mechanisms against being too much herself. There’s a tragic irony to Burstein’s narrative, a picture of a warrior weighed down by the armor that kept her alive.
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