For anyone shocked by the results of November 8 who is looking for something both escapist and enlightening, “Nuts!” is your go-to movie. Penny Lane’s documentary tale of a forgotten American sensation, Dr. John Romulus Brinkley, feels too absurd to possibly be true. And yet, when you step back and consider it in light of a country that elected Donald Trump, perhaps nothing in it is all too surprising.
Think about the story this way: “Nuts!” is a Lincoln-esque rags to riches crossed with a story of a huckster rising in perfect step with a new medium of distraction and mass communication: radio. He exploited male weakness by proposing an absurd cure for impotence through the surgical transplanting of goat testes. When it appears to work, the professional class threatened by Brinkley’s ascendancy seek regulation of his media coverage.
Not to worry, though – Brinkley uses controversy to launch a media empire and brief political career. His supporters, many of whom come to him in a state of threatened and fragile masculinity, rally against elitism and federal government control when confronted with the facts about Brinkley. In his failed campaigns, Brinkley spoke to the dispossessed masses by promising a realignment of political fortunes and restacking the deck to favor his devotees. They clamor for states rights in the face of perceived cultural assault.
Sound a little familiar? The parallels are scarily uncanny, although at least the stakes are low in “Nuts!” Allow yourself to enjoy the JibJab aesthetic that Lane brings to the film, a pretty appropriately bonkers way to bring such a story to life. But don’t allow yourself to forget that history repeats itself because no one listens the first time. Listen now. B+ /