Rose McGowan brings #MeToo fight to E!’s ‘Citizen Rose’
Rose McGowan’s bracing brand of activism receives a provocative forum in “Citizen Rose,” a two-hour documentary that serves as an anthem and rallying cry for the #MeToo movement. McGowan isn’t always well served, however, by the arty nature of the presentation, which at times does as much to distract from her message as advance it.
As the special begins, McGowan discusses her “lonely road” in pursuit of justice, and feelings of redemption in the outpouring that has come since allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein went public in October, followed by claims regarding a host of other Hollywood and media predators. (McGowan pointedly refuses to use the mogul’s name, referring to him only as “The Monster.”)
The problem with “Citizen Rose” comes when the production gets in the way of that, or at least nearly does, by virtue of its reliance on shaky camerawork or shooting sequences in a gauzy manner seemingly designed to resemble a perfume commercial. Those stylistic flourishes at times feel as if they’re wrestling against the substance.
McGowan’s determination to press her cause doesn’t require the embroidery. And if she seems to revel in striking a combative stance toward the entire media establishment — “Do I make you uncomfortable? Good,” she says in voiceover — she has ammunition to back up her claims when she says Hollywood sex symbols have been “kept in this very infantilized place” or “This town, it’s paved on women’s bodies.”
There is also, perhaps inevitably, a staged quality to much of what transpires in “Citizen Rose,” which presents McGowan participating in a series of meetings with key figures in the Weinstein story, including journalist Ronan Farrow and actress/director Asia Argento. McGowan is also shown in a discussion with other women who have spoken out about sexual harassment and assault, among them Jessica Leeds, one of President Trump’s accusers.
The Argento session is simultaneously emblematic of “Citizen Rose’s” strengths and weaknesses, as the two speak frankly about the impact of what transpired in their lives and careers, while the producers (and McGowan is one of them) inexplicably shoot the exchange from an angle that looks like a surveillance video.
McGowan also talks at some length about her unorthodox family history, including her late father’s role as a cult leader, and the impact that had on her.
In terms of addressing a significant issue on a network often associated with fluff and keeping tabs on the Kardashians, “Citizen Rose” has something in common with “I Am Cait,” featuring Caitlyn Jenner. That show reflected the same sort of tension between E!’s customary profile and tackling a subject of greater depth and importance.
As her social media presence has demonstrated, McGowan isn’t one to shy away from a fight. But finding a balance between those aspects of “Citizen Rose” remains a battle that additional episodes, when it returns this spring, will still have to overcome.
“Citizen Rose” premieres Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. on E!