In 2001, Devin Ratray fell madly in love with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when he saw her on the news. He traveled all over America, from New York, to her home state of Alabama, over to Los Angeles, and then finally, to her home base in Washington, D.C. He even got close to meeting the object of his affections-until the federal government stepped in and tried to shut down his operation. But, did any of it actually happen?
When asked if his new film about his Rice obsession, “True Bromance,” is a mockumentary, Ratray wouldn’t say. “Really, what’s the difference when we’re dealing with love?” he answered. “It’s a fine line between love and madness and career and the casualties of love.”
The scripted narrative makes it hard to believe that Ratray, an actor best known for his role as Buzz in “Home Alone,” really fell in love with one of the world’s most powerful women. “True Bromance,” which will have its world premiere on Saturday, September 24th at the Williamsburg Film Festival, is so over the top it couldn’t possibly be real.
If you approach the film as fiction, you’ll appreciate it for its best moments. Ratray enlists the help of his closest friends/bros comedian Jim Norton and actor Adrian Grenier, on his quest for “love.” Norton is easily the funniest person in the film, with his crude advice, flatulence, and pokes at his best friend’s insane mission.
Along for the ride is fellow bro/Condi admirer Sebastian Doggart, a journalist and filmmaker who also made two other movies about Rice, “Courting Condi” and “American Faust: From Condi to Neo-Condi.” The former was another collaboration with Ratray, who said, unlike “True Bromance,” it was “more of the story of revealing the life of Condi Rice and my life and the path that both of them have taken.” The newest installment, which is also a sequel, “is the other side of the story and more about the friendship and love and madness that emerges once [I] accept this advice from [my] friends.”
Doggart, who was born in England and didn’t have citizenship at the time of filming, was scared of being deported once the government attempted to halt the production. “The initial concept appeared in early 2006,” he said. “We secured $600,000 in financing from Discovery in June 2007, but then Karl Rove intervened to halt the release of all that money one week before shooting. Discover gave us a $150,000 ‘kill fee,’ and we made the film on a shoestring.”
In the movie, the two discover that their hotel room in D.C. is bugged after trying to make contact with Rice. Although this scene is most likely dramatized representation of what the government was actually trying to do, Ratray claims that Doggart really thought his phone was being tapped. “We were directly confronted by the state department and the agents who worked for [Bush],” he said. “They blocked us at every turn. It was disheartening and disappointing. It was sad. I tried to stay positive throughout it, and I tried to think that perhaps they would have a different attitude or opinion or be more open but I was kind of naïve to think that.”
Even if the specter of government intervention was real, it’s difficult to see why they would be so intent on blocking the film. Ratray makes no extreme moves to get to Condi. The closest he gets to causing trouble is when he sings her a love song with a crowd outside the White House, and then brings flowers up to the gate. He and Doggart also make several amusing phone calls to her assistants, who usually just hang up on them. Moreover, it’s all done with an underlying wink to the audience.
“True Bromance” is told in comic book style, with Ratray as its superhero. Also appearing in the film are Carol Connors, who dated Elvis Presley and co-wrote the theme for “Rocky” and Frank Luntz, as the final bro, a political commentator from Fox News and “The Colbert Report” who works closely with the Republican Party.
Unlike most cinematic love stories, Ratray obviously doesn’t get the girl in the end, but he did, at least, get his film made. And even though it took 5 very difficult years to finish, it gave him the chance to reflect and grow. “It was an eye-opening experience… I’ve never been on a film shoot that has started off as one thing and been so completely different. If you start off making a comedy or political statement and end up with three separate films you learn so much about the subject that you’re going for, and you learn so much about yourself. It’s been more cathartic and more of a journey into myself than more into the private affairs of Condi Rice. It teaches you a lot about yourself.”