Friday, July 13, 2012

Movie with Abe: Grassroots

Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal
Released July 13, 2012

Movies about politics are bound to be infused, at least to some degree, with the politics of those behind the film. With a director like Stephen Gyllenhaal, father of two actors more widely known than him, who becomes passionate in the midst of a calm discussion about the film, citing his father’s declaration that he wouldn’t die until Nixon was impeached, that’s doubly true. Yet “Grassroots” is a largely apolitical film with a truly memorable and wild central political character, a brazen and outspoken music critic with a fervent desire to see change instilled in his city of Seattle.

Biggs and Moore star in the film

“Grassroots” is based on the true story of journalist Phil Campbell, who loses his job and works to get his eccentric friend Grant Cogswell elected to the City Council. Gyllenhaal, who has been directing independent films and television episodes for the past several decades, usually makes serious films, and knew that this would be a comedy, albeit a dramatic one at that. He explains that he needed comedic actors in his film to appropriately approach the material, and as a result, Jason Biggs stars as Phil, delivering what the actor summarizes as a “subtler, quieter performance than he’s used to giving,” and Cedric the Entertainer has a pivotal supporting role that’s entirely serious in nature.

Biggs discusses the film

Based on a book by the real-life Campbell about his experiences, “Grassroots” is a film about the underdog that resonates today, over a decade after the passage of its events. Biggs describes it as a “cool little quirky story that’s local in nature but really universal.” Its Seattle setting defines it, and Cogswell’s passion for the extension of the Monorail is his most memorable trait. The film, however, is being showcased in a more relatable way across the country with local grassroots candidates getting the opportunity to speak after screenings.

Gyllenhaal discusses the film

“Grassroots” presents an affirming story of an oddball candidate and his hard-working campaign manager, and also includes a diverse and talented ensemble. Biggs is affable and believable as Campbell, while Joel David Moore turns in a fiery, eclectic performance as Cogswell. Lauren Ambrose, Cobie Smulders, Christopher McDonald, Tom Arnold, Emily Bergl, and Cedric the Entertainer complete a smart and capable cast. The film is respectful when it needs to be, such as when its characters watch the Twin Towers collapse live on television, and light-hearted at the right times as well. Unlike its brash protagonist, it’s an unassuming, harmless experience, and a very worthwhile commentary on politics and what it means to be the underdog.


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