Critic’s Choice: Documentary ‘Moynihan’ shows they don’t make politicians like this anymore

Daniel Patrick Moynihan in March 1976, from the documentary "Moynihan."
(Library of Congress / Marion S. Trikosko)
Film Critic

Once he was a force to be reckoned with, a 6-foot-5 polymath whose resume included four terms as U.S. senator from New York, an academic career at Harvard and stints as U.S. ambassador to both India and the U.N. Now, sadly, Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s name is not heard much anymore, a situation the documentary “Moynihan” (starting Friday at the Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills) aims to change.

Directed by Joseph Dorman and Toby Perl Freilich, this film is an unusually detailed and thoughtful look at a man who despised poverty and whose belief that “if you have contempt for government, you will get contemptible government” sounds especially valid today. Commentators as various as former Vice President Joseph Biden and writers George Will and Ta-Nehisi Coates take the measure of this exceptional and unconventional public citizen.