Directed By Jon Stewart
Starring – Steve Carell, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper
The Plot – A comedy about what happens when a small Wisconsin town becomes the main attraction of our political circus. After the Democrat’s top strategist Gary (Carell) sees a video of a retired Marine Colonel (Cooper) standing up for the rights of his town’s undocumented workers, Gary believes he has found the key to winning back the Heartland. However, when the Republicans counter him by sending in his brilliant nemesis Faith (Byrne), what started out as a local race quickly becomes an out-of-control and hilarious fight for the soul of America.
Rated R for adult language including sexual references
– Familiar faces. There’s no shortage of reputable names and heralded character actors who adorn the movie’s ensemble cast, making for several dream team collisions in the face of the comedy genre over the past two decades. Aside from touted trio listed above, there’s surprise appearances from Debra Messing, Natasha Lyonne, Wil Sasso, Mackenzie Davis, and Topher Grace to name a few. These are obviously glorified cameo’s, but if it’s performances you want, look no further than the duo of Carell and Cooper to intrigue you. Carell gives a safe but effective performance as Gary Zimmer, juggling much of the long-winded banter and elevation in vocal capacities that have made him a cherished staple in hits like “The Office” or “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”. Combined with Cooper’s blue collar everyman that captures the articulate side that’s been missing from politics most recently, and you have a thunderous one-two punch that only elevates the material when the two share the screen simultaneously.
– Rock the vote. There’s a richly satirical side to Stewart’s political focus that encompasses everything it means to be involved in this side of the election trail. In this regard, this was easily the highlight of the movie for me, not just because most of the material here consistently meets its mark, but because Stewart accordingly captures the lunacy of the spectacle from every possible angle. From the news channel’s political biases, to campaign commercials smearing the facts of their respective candidates, to even the very traits that each side of the political coin dish out in trying to distinguish themselves as something different entirely. Stewart is very much the right man for the job here, as his days on “The Daily Show” have gained him a wealth of knowledge so precisely resonating that each observation stings with distinct accuracy. It makes for a comically revealing experience with plenty to offer in the way of diverse topics, and attains the film’s strongest level of comic quality by hitting on the many stereotypes associated with the right and left sides.
– Beatdown balance. It’s important that any political comedy not take sides in the way of its audience that represent each of the sides depicted. For “Irresistible”, I’m happy to say that there’s no bias that aims distinctly towards one side, and instead a variety of occasions and observations aimed at either wing of the same bird. For Stewart, a known Democrat, this is especially remarkable in only his second time as a feature length director, fleshing out honesty in a way that doesn’t let his ideals get in the way of the backstory of the characters who he colorfully illustrates. It’s especially satisfying to an independent voter like me, who comprehends the tricks of each side of the political coin accordingly, and who can appreciate a movie that doesn’t buy into selling a particular narrative. It offers enough food for thought for Progressives and Liberals that never feels mean-spirited or crass by its rendering, and instead alludes that the one thing our leaders have in common is the abundance of problems that fills each of their approaches.
– Director’s scope. I was intrigued by Stewart’s first film “Rosewood” on more of a narrative capacity than I was a visual one, but his work here elevates future expectations with a range of techniques that adds to the small town feel depicted in the movie. The transitional photography, particularly the panning above the town below, seduces us with a majority of green color emanating from the trees and farming agriculture that are a vital part of the movie’s lead candidate. Aside from this, the energetic personality deposited to the movie’s editing flourishes between moments of panic, humor, and montage sequences, each attaining a diverse level of speed to match the intensity of what’s needed. Finally, the variety between handheld and still-frame camera work prove that Stewart isn’t relegated to just a lone style of storytelling. He deviates between them in ways that compliment what is asked from the scene, all the while gaining experience in a way that makes the movie’s presentation a step up.
– Last minute punch. There is a twist that gets revealed in the film’s final ten minutes that not only impressed me for its level of originality, but also achieved a vibrancy of thought-provoking stature that transcended this as just an entertaining piece of fiction. The kind of climax to a movie that feels more like a call to arms for its audience awareness without feeling preachy or heavy-handed because of such, wrapping things up with an ending that cements how pivotal local elections stand in attaining real change. It transforms characters and stereotypes in a way that we truly don’t see coming, and wraps things up on a note of unity that the world certainly needs today more than ever.
– Unnecessary R-rating. This is something that I still don’t understand, as other than the forced vulgarity, which often contradicted and meandered much of the necessities of the story, there is nothing even remotely risque about this picture. It comes in the form of several F-bombs throughout the movie that never feel synthetically appropriate for the conversations they spring up in, nor feel justified as if by some stroke of anger being shared by the characters in the conversation. With a much needed rewrite, this is easily a PG-13 film that caters more to the ideals of the characters, and doesn’t require the audience to suspend disbelief when these figures curse on live television, and no anchor even raises a finger to object. Leave the vulgarity on the editing room floor, and market this to more of a youthful audience who themselves are years away from participating in the events documented in the movie.
– Shameless product placement. It’s been a while since we’ve had an offender who isn’t Sony. Even still, the level of unabashed focus given to some obvious levels of promotion demeans Stewart’s level of credibility, all the while giving us several moments of cringe that would make Adam Sandler say “COME ON!!!”. Particularly during the opening act of the movie, we are not only treated to instances of label focusing Red Bull, Budweiser, and especially a slew of Google products that often feel like a commercial for their counterparts, and all imbedded with momentum-halting inclusion that often pads out the dialogue. Because much of the movie is obviously made with cheap presentational choices, you could argue that making a little money for the film’s budget on the side feels warranted. However, the repetition in their involvement gave this film anything other than a naturalistic quality from the jump, forcing viewers through an uphill climb immediately, before the plot takes shape.
– Inconsistent time allowance. Notice before I didn’t mention anything about Rose Byrne’s work in the film? That’s because she’s virtually unnecessary for what little the movie had for her in the foreground of the story. For an actress as credible as her, who is marketed equally with Carell in all of the posters and trailers, Byrne’s involvement really serves as a plot convenience, allowing her to only pop up when the film absolutely requires her. Aside from her, Cooper’s appearances diminish more with each passing minute. This is especially troublesome for a movie revolving around him as a candidate, and one who we feel we rarely learn anything about while the movie is asking for our vote of interest in his story. “Irresistible” is so obviously a vehicle for Carell, but it requires the strength of an exceptionally gifted supporting cast in between to give him something to work with, a requirement that doesn’t happen often enough to bring out the best in everyone involved.
– Unfocused storytelling. The biggest problem for the film concerns a device revolving around as many as six different subplots all vying for time within this brief 97 minute run time. This is a sloppy level of storytelling even for a world of politics that reveals something new about someone or something every single day, often not rewarding the audience in a way that they deserved despite the script asking them to care every fifteen minutes when they materialized. Such examples exist with a romantic subplot with Carell and Mackenzie Davis, which never exceeds past movie implication. There’s also no heft to the election itself, which also deems much of the film’s urgency non existent during a political race with an entire town literally hanging in the balance. Its reach far exceeds its actual grasp, and makes “Irresistible” feel like a series of ideas thrown against a slippery, crooked wall that doesn’t allow any of them to stick with the kind of traction necessary to invest in its characters and situations.
– Bumbling dialogue. Like most politicians, this movie’s lines of dialogue also lack any kind of compelling depth that make them feel anything but natural in what they convey. There’s certainly a problem with exposition plunges, particularly when a character needs to audibly illustrate what has taken place before we were brought into the story, but the bigger problem stems from these lines that are so on-the-nose with selling a narrative that they often brought forth a series of distractions that constantly pulled me out of my investment into the film. When you throw in humiliatingly failing lines like “They were a bunch of nuns, and that’s our chances of getting any of their votes; nuns”, a line hauntingly bad, yet not the worst in the movie, it makes for these surreal moments of corny exchanges that never free themselves from conventional movie dialogue. It’s corny levels of hyperbole with no soul or characterization to what they’re saying, often keeping them from feeling like natural living, breathing entities behind a bill of goods that they never refrain from selling.
My Grade: 5/10 or D