It's resistible, with little wit or insight into the political process that will consume us until November.
Director: Jon Stewart (Rosewater)
Cast: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Rose Byrne (Spy)
Runtime: 1h 41m
By: John DeSando
No pundit satirist can compete with Jon Stewart’s understanding of the underbelly and corruption of national politics. His Daily Show was the model for satirical deconstruction of the news, especially with the ascendency of Donald Trump.
Stewart writes and directs Irresistible, a toothlesst sendup of political operatives and media descending on a small Wisconsin town to promote and influence the mayoral campaign. Gary Zimmer (Steve Carrel), a campaign guru who sees video of a Wisconsin farmer making an impassioned plea for the little guy at a town meeting, decides to enlist that farmer, former Marine Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper—not enough of him in this satire), to run for mayor as a democrat, because that’s what he sounds like.
As Gary enlists his usual Washington, DC, mechanism in hopes to win the campaign, he also begins to learn about the much-heralded conservative values of the heartland. From yummy cakes to incessant “how-r-ya’s”, Gary factors in this friendliness with his usual aggressive campaigning. Although he can’t position the cows for video segments, he can get the colonel to say a down-home word or two to attract campaign money.
Meanwhile Republican rival operative Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) moves in to the action to support incumbent Mayor Braun (Brent Sexton). The campaigns are no longer local, and the money they can use from SuperPAC’s makes the action national worthy. Actually, Byrne is so Kellyanne Conwayish, she’s the best comic part of an otherwise underperforming lampoon.
The dialogue is not as witty as, say, in Primary Colors, about Bill Clinton’s political campaign, nor does it move at a dramatically impelling pace. It rather moves slowly rolling toward an amusing reveal, at a pace worthy of the Midwest, wary but not clueless.
Stewart layers in romantic possibilities between Gary and Faith and Gary and the Colonel’s daughter, Diana (Mackenzie Davis), with little effect except to offer a bit heavier dialogue than rural platitudes. The heft of Stewart’s political analysis comes toward the end with a reveal about campaigning financing.
Adding to the plot turn is an explanation about SuperPAC financing, an instructive parsing of the danger in weak financing oversight. Irresistible is instructive and occasionally funny. The events it promises as we move toward November are not at all funny.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com.