by Toby Woollaston
Verdict: Easy to resist.
Written and directed by American political commentator and satirist Jon Stewart (of The Daily Show fame) Irresistible, examines the crazy circus that is the US election system. It’s only Stewart’s second time in the director’s chair after his critically well-received debut, Rosewater. Unfortunately, lightning hasn’t struck twice, and what begins as a whip-smart political commentary descends into smugness and unapologetically spans a rather contrived narrative arc.
The film follows Democratic electioneering strategist, Gary (Steve Carell), who heads into small-town-America on a recruitment drive after seeing an inspirational speech from town-hall upstart Jack (played by Chris Cooper). Much to Gary’s glee, Jack’s rural brand of rhetoric is surprisingly sympathetic to the Democrat cause and Gary is eager to convince him to run for local Mayor, thereby giving the Democrats an unsuspecting voice deep inside the Republican camp… a Trojan Donkey, if you will.
It’s meaty political subject matter and something I would’ve expected Stewart, with his political savvy and witty repartee, to be all over a like Trump tanning booth. Yet, given the opportunities for satirical complexities, Irresistible is disappointingly plain. Carell is typically Carellesque in his humorous delivery, and the ever-reliable Chris Cooper competently negotiates some fairly straight-forward dialogue. But none of the film’s cast (Rose Byrne and MacKenzie Davis included) are stretched to anywhere near their talented boundaries, which speaks volumes to Stewart’s limited experience as director.
Yes, there are some highlights, most notably the film’s final subversive comment on financial involvement in the US election process, but digging beneath the film’s satirical surface reveals an unsavoury whiff of questionable virtues—from the creepy romantic undertones between the Gary and Jack’s daughter (who is half his age), to the tired city-slicker routine which comes across as condescending to small-town-America and whose inhabitants are depicted as simple but warm-hearted people. Shame, because despite Irresistible’s clumsy handling there is a well-meaning film that has some valid points to make on the financially warped US electoral system.
See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.