Jon Stewart and Steve Carell bring us a political satire that doesn’t quite go far enough.
Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) is a Democratic campaign manager who was devastated by the results of the 2016 election. He finds a video of Marine Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) taken by his daughter, Diana (Mackenzie Davis), defending the rights of immigrants in his town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin, and decides to use Hastings to try to reconnect the Democratic Party with “America’s Heartland.” The Republican National Committee sends Gary’s nemesis, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), to oppose him. The pair keep escalating the election until it’s national news, rocking the small town.
The opening to this movie consists of a moment of Steve Carell and Rose Byrne both being honest about their jobs, telling the people around them that they literally lie for a living. It is a refreshing scene of political operatives from both parties just dropping all of the bullsh*t and being sincere, with each basically saying the same thing. It’s particularly funny hearing them both say: “Whatever you think you saw tonight, you didn’t. You saw what I saw, as long as I say it repeatedly, doggedly, and with unearned confidence. I lie, and you know I lie…. You all know that and yet, here we are…. F*ck you to America. I look forward to lying to you in the future. Let’s hit the bar.” This is the exact kind of language I want starting a movie like this off. I want some damned honesty about exactly how culpable a large number of groups are for the state of our politics, ranging from the media to, well, us. The problem is, the rest of the movie just doesn’t quite hold up this well. It doesn’t have the guts to keep this kind of satire up.
Instead of being an aggressive piece of political satire, the rest of the movie becomes a kind of morality tale whose message ends up being “politics is really just a bunch of rich people playing games with poor people they don’t care about.” Raise your hand if you haven’t felt that point becoming ABUNDANTLY clear over the last few elections. If your hand is up, then you should absolutely watch this movie, because that is crucial information. Otherwise, you, like me, might spend ninety minutes waiting for the film to reach a bigger point and be disappointed. The problem with the movie is it’s telling us something that would have been very important to recognize in 2013 or so, but now feels like the word of the day.
As to the other half of “political comedy,” Irresistible doesn’t quite have enough comedy for my taste. The humor from the movie largely depends on the “country mouse meets city mouse” formula that arises from Gary and Faith interacting with the townspeople who, naturally, aren’t the redneck stereotypes they expected. I will admit that, as someone who grew up in a rural area near a college town, this sometimes was amusing. There’s even a really funny bit involving nuns. Every few minutes, I think there’s a decent laugh in the movie, but a big problem is that almost all of the jokes have been done and done better by other films. Hell, I think a few of the jokes were just updated versions of bits from The Daily Show, which… I guess isn’t plagiarism? I understand that much of it is supposed to be a deeper kind of humor, but I just never felt like the satisfaction was worth the dive. Comedy is subjective, though, and I can see by the audience Rotten Tomatoes score that a lot of people disagree.
Ultimately, though, the thing that I think will be most divisive is the ending. I don’t want to give it away, but I will say that it ends up letting a ton of people off of a ton of hooks. It doesn’t help that the ending doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about it. Instead, it tries to just pull the rug out from some of the characters and hopes that the audience falls down, too. If you think it’s funny, then you’ll probably like it. If you don’t, then you won’t. Mostly, I just was really let down that the movie didn’t try to drop a bigger bomb at the end, which might have redeemed more of the other flaws.
Overall, this movie was okay, but if you want a movie that does what this movie was trying to do, but better, check out Bulworth on Amazon Prime. It stars Warren Beatty as a politician who just decides to quit lying and it contains some of the funniest dark satire out there.
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