Review: ‘American Chaos’ attempts to make sense of what led to President Trump

James D. Stern in the documentary "American Chaos."
(Kevin Ford / Sony Pictures Classics)

While an argument can be made for it being either “too late” or “too soon,” James D. Stern’s “American Chaos” nevertheless serves as a handy look back on the poll-defying perfect storm that cleared Donald Trump’s path to the White House.

Coming from a family of Democrats, self-admitted political junkie Stern, a successful TV, film and Broadway producer, set out on a road trip to make sense of Trump’s unwavering base in the weeks leading up to the election.

His visits to Florida, West Virginia, Arizona and the Republican National Convention in Cleveland yield the usual suspects, including out-of-work coal miners, disillusioned Democrats, Hillary haters and conservative talk-radio hosts whose voices underscore a considerable socio-political divide.

Because the film ends on the expectation-shattering events of Nov. 8, 2016, the words “collusion” and “obstruction” are not heard here, nor, save for an end-credits coda, is there any mention of Russia.


But despite lacking a broader, more incisive scope, Stern’s film has its share of engaging moments, including having descendants of the feuding Hatfields and McCoys watch one of the presidential debates.

Then there are those clips from an actual episode of the 1950s western “Trackdown,” in which a visiting con artist by the name of Trump warns the town folk of impending doom, offering, “Trust me. I can build a wall around your homes that nothing will penetrate.”

Too soon?



‘American Chaos’

Rated: R, for some language including sexual references

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: Starts Friday, AMC Sunset 5, West Hollywood