From the honest, jovial, straight-forward way he handles things, cutting to tiny bits and pieces defining glimpses of Carter's real persona to details you'd never know about him-he swims daily, reads from the Bible to his wife every night (in English and Spanish) his favorite poet is Dylan Thomas, he believes in science and evolution along with his devout Christianity-he's like the Mother Teresa of politics.
But this doc isn't focused on bringing all this to light, but rather focuses on the 2006-07 controversial book tour for Palestine: Peace or Apartheid, the provocative title that sparked huge debates. The 39th president is forced to defend himself around every corner. His summation in the film of how that hurts him at a college lectures is an exercise in brilliance.
Standing alone as a Mid-east regional and political educational experience, Plains is ultimately a look what's right and wrong in this country, including how quick we are to condemn and to judge. People constantly reject Carter's book based on preconceived prejudices - despite the fact that half of them haven't even read it. Brings to mind the picket lines for so called anti-Christian movies where, through hearsay, Zealots take their stand on empty soap-boxes preaching loudly the evils of something they've never seen. Carter handles his opponents in the film with grace, paradoxically setting them up through his own honesty and knowledge. In a revealing segment, Carter remarks "wow-he was absolutely obnoxious" after being interviewed over the phone by someone who doesn't share his viewpoint. Although, I'd have to say my favorite scene was Carter sleeping on a plane while his gigantic security guard reads his book.
Carter had several pioneering ideas and initiatives during his tenure in the White House. His Camp David Middle east peace talks were a milestone, his energy saving plans were ahead of their time. But even winning the Nobel Peace Prize can't save his total disgust for how New Orleans has been abandoned while he is down there with Habitat For Humanity building homes.
You get the mini-biography in the ending credits, cutting back and forth between places and dates when Carter did plain nice, as well as miraculous, things. His kind heart and vision might not change the world, but it does spark debate. Talking with mankind about strong beliefs is pro-active, not counter productive. It seems that getting people to think puts that gleam in Carter's eye.
Written and directed by Jonathan Demme, Rated PG