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Jeff Smith, a 29-year-old adjunct instructor at Washington University, mounted a quixotic congressional campaign in 2004 but ultimately lost a close primary race to Russ Carnahan, the well-funded scion of a Missouri political family. This fleet documentary by Frank Popper stresses Carnahan's huge advantage over the unknown progressive challenger, whose notable lisp and pro-choice stance make him a tough sell in Missouri's third district (his own communications director says “he's short, looks like he's 12, and sounds like he's castrated”). The long odds against Smith only make his unexpected surge against Carnahan more exciting, and Popper sticks close to the fierce campaigner and his young, mostly inexperienced staffers, capturing all the energy, idealism, dour humor, and unreasoning hope of a Cinderella candidacy. 82 min.

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