Election year Trump biopic ‘The Apprentice’ premieres at Cannes

May 21, 2024 - 2:12 PM
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Gabriel Sherman, Director Ali Abbasi, and cast members Maria Bakalova, Sebastian Stan and Martin Donovan pose on the red carpet as they leave following the screening of the film "The Apprentice" in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 20, 2024. (Reuters/Stephane Mahe)

 “The Apprentice”, Iran-born director Ali Abbasi’s much-anticipated drama of a young Donald Trump’s ascendancy as a New York real estate mogul, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday.

Part of the pull of the film is its timing, as Trump, now 77, looks to win another term as U.S. president in November.

The film shares its title with the reality show that helped turn Trump into a household name.

Sebastian Stan, who made his name in the Captain America trilogy as the Winter Soldier, morphs into Trump, from his early stages as an upstart working for his father’s business to a brazen, self-centered tycoon.

The story focuses on Trump’s time under the tutelage of Roy Cohn, a political fixer best known for his involvement in Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist scare campaigns of the 1950s and portrayed by “Succession’s” Jeremy Strong.

His three rules for success, which Trump later takes credit for while speaking with the writer of his business advice book “The Art of the Deal”, are prescient of his traits in office: deny everything, always be on the attack and never admit defeat.

Abbasi is known for his eclectic film repertoire, including 2022’s Cannes entry “Holy Spider” about the killings of sex workers in Iran and “Border”, a fantasy love story in Sweden.

Critics were mixed, praising for Stan and Strong while seeing the film’s basis in actual events as a limitation.

“Sebastian Stan Plays Donald Trump in a Docudrama That Nails Everything About Him but His Mystery,” read the headline for entertainment website Variety, while trade publication IndieWire pointed out that the film “can’t get around the fact that Trump is too base and pathological to be of much dramatic interest”.

— Reporting by Miranda Murray;Editing by Alison Williams