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The Independent Critic

Pete Buttigieg, Chasten Buttigieg, Lis Smith
Jesse Moss
Jeff Seymann Gilbert
Rated R
96 Mins.

 "Mayor Pete" an Engaging, Entertaining Doc  

If you're a Hoosier, as I am, then there's a pretty good chance there's not a whole lot contained within the 96 minutes of Jesse Moss's entertaining and engaging feature doc Mayor Pete that will be particularly revelatory about Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana mayor turned presidential candidate who surprised Americans nationwide by giving now President Biden a legit run for his money. 

This isn't, however, a reason to not watch Mayor Pete for yourself. Familiarity aside, Mayor Pete is an engaging and entertaining documentary that hits all the right feature doc notes in following the presidential campaign of Buttigieg as he sought to be the youngest U.S. President and for a little while looked like he might actually pull off snagging the Democratic Party's nomination. 

Mayor Pete is most revealing about the campaign itself. Moss captures the ins and outs of just how a national campaign really works and offers regular glimpses of life on the campaign trail and how Buttigieg became such an endearing, popular candidate. 

Of course, Mayor Pete also gives tremendous insight into Buttigieg's handling of what it meant to be the first gay man to run for national office and how he was able, quite masterfully, to both talk about that while also keeping the lens largely on his campaign and the issues at hand. Moss weaves it all together beautifully. Mayor Pete captures Buttigieg's remarkable intelligence while also immersing itself in the emotional resonance of his marriage to Chasten, who is also an absolute delight here, and how Buttigieg's personal life influences his presence as a politician. 

Mayor Pete, whom I've met once while he was still mayor in South Bend, serves up reminder after reminder of just why he provided such a remarkable spark of light to an otherwise fiercely divisive and oddly anticlimactic campaign. Beyond that even-keeled personality and midwestern charm, Buttigieg is a master communicator who connects with just about everyone in the room despite being more intelligent than a good majority of them. 

It's arguable, of course, that Buttigieg is such a master of the political sound byte that it's hard to sometimes discern where Buttigieg the politician ends and Buttigieg the human being begins. It's hard not to be in complete awe of Buttigieg's ability to get to the heart of even a complex question with an answer that is straightforward, understandable, and utterly transparent. If there's a catch with Buttigieg, and it's captured beautifully in one of Communications Director Lis Smith's coaching sessions with Buttigieg, it's that Buttigieg is so uncommonly good at communication that he can come off with too little passion and personality. 

And, as Smith points out, those things do matter. 

I enjoyed every moment of Mayor Pete even if I didn't find it to be particularly revealing. I enjoyed watching him learn the ins and outs of campaigning and I enjoyed watching how that campaigning influenced him personally and professionally. I enjoyed watching him interact with people from all walks of life. I adored watching him with his husband, Chasten, and I loved watching the two interact on the campaign trail even as their personal lives were put in the spotlight again and again. 

Quite simply, I enjoyed watching the Pete Buttigieg that I found so fascinating as a political candidate and realizing that every reason I found him so compelling is brought to life in this wonderful doc. 

Now the first openly LGBTQ Cabinet Member in U.S. history as Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg is brought intelligently and poignantly to life in Mayor Pete and it becomes obvious that his political career is far from done and we'd do well to keep him amongst our nation's leaders as he's fiercely intelligent, driven, compassionate, and, well, remarkably kind. 

While Mayor Pete may not go everywhere we wish it would go, it's still a wonderfully entertaining doc that avoids unnecessary drama and instead focuses its lens squarely on one of contemporary political history's most captivating and fascinating figures. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic