Saturday, October 3, 2020

Movie Reviews: Irresistible

directed by Jon Stewart
This political satire should have come out earlier and been sharper. It was amusing when I expected belly laughs and cuddly when I was looking for sharp elbows. Current and soon to be former President Trump defied all expectations in 2016. Trump drew to an inside straight and became President, shocking the political establishment by cracking the blue electoral wall of Pennsylvania and some Midwestern states.
Trump won in part by portraying himself as a rough and tough round the way fellow, who despite his wealth was the standard bearer for the so-called forgotten and discarded tribes of America, that is to say white people, specifically white people without college degrees, and even more specifically white men without college degrees. That this framing was all bs didn't matter. His supporters apparently didn't care that Trump mocked them as much as any Beltway Ivy League Hollywood Elite insider. 
What did matter was that certain Trump voters felt, correctly or not, that Clinton and the Democrats hated them more, and more importantly were preparing to turn the country, the whole kit and caboodle, over to THEM. Because whites were and still are the majority electorate, a small percentage of white voters flipped the election.  Trump's election kicked off something of a dark night of the soul spiritual crisis in the Democratic Party, in particular among its advisors and analytical experts. 
Did Democrats need to make their Caucasian male Blue Dog working class types the party's face? Or was this just a one time problem?  Was Trump's victory the last gasp of dying reactionaries? Should Democrats double down on appealing to the emerging majority coalition of Black people, feminists, college educated liberal whites, gays, Hispanics, young whites, coastals, etc. Gary Zimmer (Steve Carrell) is a depressed Democratic Party campaign coordinator. 
Gary has won some and lost some but losing the big one for Clinton has sent him into a tailspin of despair. He's not making any money. 
People who count aren't returning his calls. And though Gary is cynical he does believe that the wrong people are running the country. 
To put the cherry on Gary's crap cupcake, his opposite number Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) is riding high as the new RNC superstar. 
The supremely confident Faith is if anything more cynical and ruthless than Gary, which is saying something. Gary and Faith may or may not have had a THANG going on at one point. 
When Gary sees a viral video of manly man Wisconsin dairy farmer and Marine veteran Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) standing up for illegal immigrants in his small town of Deerlaken, Gary decides that getting Jack elected could be the chance to show that Democrats can simultaneously be tough, masculine, caring and compassionate.  A success for Gary allows Gary to show his peers, especially Faith, that he's still got the magic touch. 
Moving to Deerlaken, Gary tries to convince Jack and Jack's direct and very tall daughter Diana (Mackenzee Davis), that Jack should run for mayor as a Democrat against the town's genial Republican and well connected mayor Braun (Brent Sexton). Jack agrees to run, though the reticent and determinedly introverted man doesn't appear to enjoy the process.

Once Republicans learn of Gary's plans they worry that losing any rural race will damage their brand. They engage Faith to buoy up support for Mayor Braun. Both campaigns pull in various election experts and raise millions from donors. Battle is joined.
Stewart gets predictable humor from the fish out of water aspect of the relationships between Gary and the Deerlaken residents. Gary's idea of how a "real man" eats, talks, and behaves is based on stereotypes. It's not that different from President Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Joe Biden dropping terminal g's, affecting Southern accents, or throwing "man" after every third word, when they're in front of Black audiences. 
The film skewers Faith's and Gary's increasing ruthlessness and amorality and that of their backing parties. Interoffice rivalries,  pompous media figureheads, workplace romances, and the hypocrisy of campaign finance rules all come in for ridicule. 
I think the movie would have worked better if Gary had been more dislikable and not just bossy and mostly clueless. The film can come across as lecturing and even as hectoring on occasion which would be ok if it didn't too often patronize the viewer (and Midwesterners) while claiming to do the opposite. 
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