Politics

Mainstream Media Criticizes ‘The Apprentice’ Biopic For Making Donald Trump Look “Too Sympathetic”

Mr. McMahon and Donald Trump’s Battle of the Billionaires Contract Signing via WWE, YouTube

Directed by Ali Abbasi and starring Marvel actor Sebastian Stan in the titular role, The Apprentice is a Donald Trump biopic that sees the former president’s early days in real estate under Roy Cohn’s wing who, according to the film’s synopsis, teaches the young businessman “how to amass wealth and power through deception, intimidation and media manipulation.”

Donald Trump holds Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) in high esteem in Zoolander (2001), Paramount Pictures
Donald Trump holds Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) in high esteem in Zoolander (2001), Paramount Pictures

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Because it’s an election year and Left-leaning Hollywood folks are desperate to prevent Trump from being reelected, The Apprentice was unsurprisingly going to be praised as the greatest thing since sliced bread — that is, of course, according to mainstream media critics who have been salivating over the film following it’s premiere at the ultra-woke Cannes Film Festival.

Not quite the surprise, given that The Apprentice Director Ali Abbasi used the film’s premiere to smear the former president, declaring that the reason he set out to make the Trump biopic was because “there is no nice metaphorical way to deal with the rising wave of fascism.”

Kendall (Jeremy Strong) wakes up after a rough night in Succession Season 1 Episode 10 "Nobody Is Ever Missing" (2018), HBO
Kendall (Jeremy Strong) wakes up after a rough night in Succession Season 1 Episode 10 “Nobody Is Ever Missing” (2018), HBO

Likewise, actor Jeremy Strong, who plays Trump mentor Roy Cohn in the film, not only compared Trump to Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels but also sided with mainstream media as he claimed, “We’re living in a world where truth is under assault.”

“In America that assault on truth in many ways began in the malevolent chrysalis of Donald Trump’s apprenticeship under Roy Cohn,” he further added.

Will (Will Smith) offers to cut Donald Trump's grass in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Season 4 Episode 25 "For Sale by Owner" (1994), NBC
Will (Will Smith) offers to cut Donald Trump’s grass in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Season 4 Episode 25 “For Sale by Owner” (1994), NBC

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Mainstream critics have come to the film’s aid. Unsurprisingly, The Apprentice has a 74% on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, with 31 reviews — 23 of which giving the film a fresh score and 8 of them labelling it as rotten. Similarly, with a slightly lower score, the film has a 61/100 on Metacritic based on 18 Critic Reviews, with 11 positive (61%), 7 mixed (39%), and 0 negative reviews.

The Playlist’s Rafa Sales Ross gives the film a B+, offering praise to Sebastian Stan as a young Donald Trump, writing, “Stan plays Trump without an overreliance on the frazzled blonde wig and increasingly pronounced prosthetics. The actor is at his greatest whenever he taps into this marriage between a swollen superiority complex and paralyzing insecurity that make up the fabric of the reality TV star turned unlikely President of the United States. “

“There is, of course, a fear that a film like ‘The Apprentice,’” she would later add, before concluding, “Alas, the Trump at the center of Abbasi’s sleek satire is the same Trump already etched in the cultural consciousness — an incompetent, disloyal, criminal fool. That, one hopes, will only cater only to those already indoctrinated.”

Ed (Bill McHugh) has a business meeting with Donald Trump in Sex and the City Season 2 Episode 8 "The Man, the Myth, the Viagra" (1998), HBO
Ed (Bill McHugh) has a business meeting with Donald Trump in Sex and the City Season 2 Episode 8 “The Man, the Myth, the Viagra” (1998), HBO

The A.V. Club’s Jason Gorber also gives the film a B+ who, after praising Stan’s performance as Trump, notes, “The voice is not the same gravelly one that so many comedians make part of their parlor tricks, but the subtle intonations and tics are absolutely present as we witness them being shaped and developed, just as Trump himself is rising within the world that he has set out to dominate.”

“Trump may be the monster that [Roy Cohn] helped craft, but despite his money and his connections, Cohn was never going to be able to grab the golden ring because of who he was, regardless of what he accomplished.”

Bringing up Vikram Gandhi’s Barack Obama biopic from 2016, Barry, Gorber then writes, “One need only look at Barry, the 2016 film about a young Barack Obama, to see just what pitfalls Abassi and his team were up against with a telling such as this.”

“While Barry plays as the rise of a future beloved figure, with any missteps more charming than egregious, the tale of Trump and Cohn is both far more intricately realized and also far more sinister in its universal tale of the nature of power, influence, and betrayal,” he concludes.

Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) ask Donald Trump for directions in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), 20th Century Fox
Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) ask Donald Trump for directions in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), 20th Century Fox

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Time Out’s Phil de Semlyen gives the film 4 stars out of 5, writing, “The result is either an inspiring Secret of My Success tale of bromance, entrepreneurship and reinvention or a gruesome origin story for a capitalist goblin who sheds his few human qualities in pursuit of the mighty dollar, depending on who’s watching. A cinematic Rorschach test, it’s more likely to reaffirm your views on the man than challenge them.”

“Like Scarface with cheeseburgers, [Director Ali Abbasi] charts Trump’s path to the top paved with junk food, speed pills and deals, shady and otherwise, navigated with the ultra-aggressive, unrepentant mentality instilled in him by Cohn,” he further notes.

A Message from President Donald J. Trump via Trump White House Archived, Youtube
A Message from President Donald J. Trump via Trump White House Archived, Youtube

Looper’s Audrey Fox gives the film an 8/10, writing, “When you watch the first few minutes of “The Apprentice,” there’s almost a sense of repulsion as Sebastian Stan speaks as Trump. “Am I actually watching this? you may ask yourself.”

“The depiction of Trump plays into a sense of internal delusion — especially once he’s more successful, Stan portrays him with the supreme confidence of an idiot who thinks he’s the coolest, smartest, handsomest guy in any room,” Fox further describes.

She adds, “There are moments where Abbasi sets up these hero shots where Trump clearly thinks he looks like a movie star, but they’re purposefully just the slightest bit off, and he actually looks tremendously stupid.”

“Trump is often begrudgingly praised for his charisma, but “The Apprentice” captures how awkward his interactions with other people actually are, as though he fundamentally does not know how to be a human,” the reviewer opined.

Donald Trump meets The Boogeyman: WrestleMania 23 via WWE, YouTube
Donald Trump meets The Boogeyman: WrestleMania 23 via WWE, YouTube

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The Wrap’s Steve Pond gives the film a 75/100, writing, “The movie essentially shows Trump learning to lie, ineptly wooing his first wife, Ivana (Maria Bakalova), building the Commodore Hotel and Trump Tower, making an ill-advised foray into Atlantic City and gulping diet pills to keep himself going.”

“It’s the construction of the Trump persona, with help from the slimy advisor who has the keys to ‘winning,’ he continued, later concluding, “‘The Apprentice’ is amusing at times and disturbing at others, but it’s hard not to think that Ali Abbasi could have done something weirder, wilder and more satisfying if he’d found a way to bring in more magic and less MAGA.”

President Donald Trump: The 60 Minutes 2020 Election Interview
President Donald Trump: The 60 Minutes 2020 Election Interview
via 60 Minutes, YouTube

The Film Stage’s Luke Hicks gives the film a B, writing, “Much of what one might want to see depicted is depicted, in the sense that we get to be in the war room, near-Succession style, for his first major successes in the construction of the Grand Hyatt and Trump Tower in Manhattan, his Fair Housing Act lawsuit for discriminating against Black people, the deliciously childish and unconfident period that preceded that, and the painfully childish and confident period that followed and would eventually carry him into office.”

“Abbasi is interested in a much larger issue than one person, an issue many Americans tend not to recognize from the comfort of their home, the benefit of their bubble: the system that allows people like Trump and Cohn to flourish in the first place, much less be celebrated and empowered for their ‘achievements,’” he asserts.

The reviewer later adds, “Abbasi’s Trump tale makes the fragile money monster out to be a piece of plastic. But keep in mind that the most expensive plastics don’t break, no matter what you hurl at them. They just keep looking shiny and synthetic, no nerves to damage, no image to ruin.”

Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on January 20th, 2017 via The Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Trump White House Archived, YouTube
Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on January 20th, 2017 via The Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Trump White House Archived, YouTube

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The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney gives the film a 7/10, writing, “Liberals will see it as a stomach-churning making-of-a-monster account while the MAGA faithful might conceivably misconstrue it as an endorsement of their guy, who has made the killer instinct his brand.”

He adds, “That’s not to say the movie’s political sympathies are unclear. But if the Trump years have taught us anything, it’s that truth is elastic and perception can be skewed to whatever angle is most expedient.”

“It might be considered a cheap shot to show Trump undergoing liposuction and a hair transplant in queasy detail at a grave moment for someone close to him. But that kind of disconnect from anyone else’s suffering is a key part of the portrait,” Rooney declares.

Before concluding, he touches on Roy Cohn and Trump’s relationship, writing, “What Abassi’s film reveals most of all is the extent to which the toxicity that’s now an inescapable part of our contemporary reality was shaped by the unholy alliance between two men half a century ago.”

Former President Donald Trump makes a 'special announcement' via Fox News, YouTube
Former President Donald Trump makes a ‘special announcement’ via Fox News, YouTube

AwardsWatch’s Savina Petkova gives the film a C+, writing, “The Apprentice does not care about deep psychologizations and all the better for it, since Abbasi allows enough room for sympathy and irony when giving us the slow process of character degradation.”

She adds, “Depicting Donald as someone who goes from laughing stock to reverie is a risky move, since it evokes identification from the audience, and who (as a non-Trump supporter) would like to identify with him at all?”

“However, the performances are all-round stellar and one cannot help but feel deep satisfaction when watching Trump’s tyrannical ascent—Stan’s facial acting becoming more twitchy and his lisp more assertive—as powered by Cohn’s catastrophic downfall,” the reviewer gushes.

Jon Voight sits down with former President Donald Trump (Sep 2022) via Newsmax, YouTube
Jon Voight sits down with former President Donald Trump (Sep 2022) via Newsmax, YouTube

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The Times’ Kevin Maher gives the film a 7/10, writing, “It is difficult to overstate how nuanced Stan is here and how his portrait of Trump evolves in physical gestures and familiar mannerisms (saying “loser”) without becoming an Alec Baldwin-style caricature.”

“If there’s any problem with Stan’s iteration of Trump, especially in the early sequences, it’s that he’s almost too sympathetic, much like Josh Brolin’s gentle George W Bush in Oliver Stone’s W,” the reviewer goes on.

Maher later adds, “Sympathy for the Donald, however, only lasts so long and, as his shady business deals continue and his vanity metastasises, the formerly hollow man is consumed by his own megalomania.”

Official portrait of President Donald J. Trump, Friday, October 6, 2017. (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)
Official portrait of President Donald J. Trump, Friday, October 6, 2017. (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

Financial Times’ Raphael Abraham gives the film 4 out of 5 stars, praising Sebastian Stan for his portrayal of Trump, writing, “it is Stan who steals the show, surpassing the army of Trump impressionists by subtly modulating his performance until Trump has been fully inflated into the orange puffball of infamy.”

The Apprentice gives us a relatively safe portrait of a deeply contentious figure, one that is unsettling mostly for how little it unsettles,” he continues, before concluding, “For many, the thing least palatable about The Apprentice is how much Trump might actually like it.”

NEXT: ‘The Apprentice’ Actor Jeremy Strong Defends Mainstream Media As He Compares Donald Trump To Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, And Nazi Propagandist Joseph Goebbels


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