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At the Washington Premiere for 'In the Loop': When Moviemakers Meet Wonks

The reviewer finds herself surrounded, not by Jimmy Choo-clad starlets, but by flip-flop-wearing interns and men donning khakis and polo shirts.
 
 
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If power begets glamor, and Washington is a great seat of power, then the District of Columbia should be a most glamorous city. It is not.

So it is at a movie premiere in Washington that one finds oneself surrounded not by Jimmy Chooed starlets, but by flip-flop-shod interns, and men donning khakis and polo shirts. Which is not to say we're not starstruck, especially when we find the likes of ourselves portrayed by actors on the big screen. And, surprise, surprise, the movie folks are rather interested in us -- at least when the film at hand is about politics.

The politics of war, to be precise, are the fodder for the BBC farce, In the Loop, directed by Armando Iannucci, who also sits at the helm of a BBC television series ( The Thick of It) that features some of the same characters who appear in the film. (View the trailer at the bottom of the article)

At the center of the action is Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), a foul-mouthed, ill-tempered Scotsman who serves as communications director to the British prime minister. The film examines, in uproariously bawdy language, how the relationships among individual people ultimately determine the path between war and peace.

In the Loop takes us into the not-quite-at-the-top shops in Washington and London where policies are hatched, zeroing in on the treachery of people who are ostensibly on the same team.

There are lots of bad guys in this film, and even the good guys and gals are brutal to each other, all in the service of their careers. A rush to war is in the making, and an inept and obscure British cabinet minister, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) mucks it all up when he tells an interviewer that "war is unforeseeable."

Tucker, the PM's comm guy, descends on the hapless Foster with teeth bared, saying, "In the words of the late, great Nat King f**king Cole, 'Unforeseeable, that's what you are…' "

We're never told just where this war is supposed to happen, but it smells a lot like Iraq. There's a pot of cooked-up intel from a source named Iceman. (Anybody remember Curveball?) We never meet the prime minister or the U.S. president; the real policy gets hashed out in brutal power skirmishes between staffers in crowded conference rooms and via leaks to the media.

Everybody, British and American, swears like mad, sometimes invoking particular sexual acts and positions -- all except Linton Barwick (David Rasche), an undersecretary of state, who calls one adversary "a piece of S-star-star-T" (as in s**t). Rasche delivers the line with such a Donald Rumsfeldesque steeliness that it cuts deeper than if he'd said the actual word. (His character keeps a live grenade on his desk as a paperweight.)

I attended the screening with my friend Mike Rogers, himself a star in our world for his work "outing" anti-gay-rights politicians who lead secret gay lives, as featured in the recent film, Outrage.

But Mike's stardom could not make up for the fullness of the room as we arrived, and we wound up seated in the last row. Come Q&A time with the director, we found we both had the same question on our minds, and we politely quibbled over who would ask it. I won by default.

"Stand up, she'll never see you," Mike urged me. "Don't worry," I said, remaining seated. "I have the gift."

Granted the last question (I got lucky), I asked about the extreme level of gay-disparaging analogies spewed by the movie's potty-mouthed characters. "Call me naive," I said, "but do people really talk like that?"