Or, to give it the full title, Scandalous: The Tabloid That Changed America. They could have added: …and Probably Not For The Better, when you learn that this romp of a documentary is about The National Enquirer, tabloid muck-raker par excellence. It’s a highly entertaining film, but one you may watch aghast through your fingers.
In the Evening Standard Lucia Pavia thinks the rich mix of colourful anecdotes “makes for compelling viewing, particularly if (like me) you enjoy old pop culture and smoky-voiced journalists telling lavish stories of a bygone world of print journalism.” The Times’s Carol Midgley feigns shock that the film reveals that Donald Trump, tipped off the National Enquirer with stories about himself, “because he wanted the attention. Incredible: who’d have thought it?” And, “it was claimed that Trump was also prepared to throw his wife under a bus as long as he came out of any story well. Another plate-dropper!” She calls it a, “fizzy, entertaining and meticulous canter through the history of America’s supermarket celebrity trash magazine.” In the Los Angeles Times Robert Abele takes a more weary view saying, “director Mark Landsman’s caffeinated history offers something to chew on the next time you wonder how America arrived at its current tabloid presidency.” He senses that the film goes too easy on some of the Enquirer’s more dubious tactics and in the interviews with former reporters, who “look tanned or smiling or rested, comfortably removed from their years plying the tabloid’s tactics and given plenty of screen time to defend themselves”. He concludes that the film “wants to be as colorful and fun as a flip through of the rag itself at the supermarket. But in these truth-challenged times, the jovial tone of Scandalous all too often outweighs the judgmental.”
Maybe as Brits, we’re more relaxed about the revelations of Scandalous, after decades of Red Top excess, but the revelations of how the Enquirer manipulated stories to promote preferred political candidates is pretty jaw-dropping. Depths to which, we can assure you, MustWatch will never descend…
First shown June 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.