Sunday, July 12, 2020

Movie with Abe: Irresistible

Directed by Jon Stewart
Released June 26, 2020

Politics in America has become a very divisive and polarizing thing, especially since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. People seem to want to argue just for the sake of standing their ground, and issues are often weaponized to convince voters that they are at risk of losing something they hold dear. Those who live in big cities can’t necessarily relate to those who live in small towns all across the country, though they’re not as different as they may think. Assumptions and generalizations are rarely helpful, and can lead to incredible miscalculations about what actually matters to real people.

Democratic strategist Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) needs a win after his predictions prove entirely false in the wake of Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. When he’s shown a video of a retired colonel, Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), making a speech espousing what he sees as Democratic values in Deerlaken, a tiny Wisconsin town, Gary jumps at the chance to convince him to run against the sitting mayor (Brent Sexton). When he arrives in Deerlaken, Gary finds it difficult to adjust to the heartland mentality and to make Jack the kind of candidate who can herald a nationwide blue wave. His presence piques the interest of his top rival, Republican strategist Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), who sees it as an opportunity to rally conservative money to support Jack’s opponent.

This is the second feature film from writer-director Jon Stewart, best known originally as the Emmy-winning host of “The Daily Show.” Since his departure from that series in 2015, Stewart has been a vocal activist for causes like funding for September 11th first responders, and his first film, “Rosewater,” spotlighted the true story of a Canadian-Iranian journalist imprisoned and tortured in Iran. Here, he’s attempting to skewer the entire political spectrum, painting Gary as an opportunist seeking to exploit Jack for what he can do for the Democratic party, unconcerned with the fate of Deerlaken. Occasionally, his commentary is pointed and effective, and at others it’s hopelessly broad, unsure of whether to focus on the petty rivalry between Jack and Faith, which often feels crude and out of place, or to caricature news anchors and talking heads for their inability to recognize their own ridiculousness.

This uneven film is still full of entertaining moments, though the better comedic ones come earlier on before things take a surprising turn designed to underscore the true problems facing this country. Carell and Byrne ably do what’s asked of them, as do Cooper and Mackenzie Davis, who plays Jack’s daughter, but this film isn’t the “Welcome to Mooseport” sequel some trailers have made it out to be. Stewart is a welcome voice whose critiques absolutely have value, and this film may help start a conversation about the way our two-party system exploits those who don’t fit neatly within its categories and the appalling truth about how campaign funds can be misused. In its own right, it isn’t nearly as resounding as the motivations that drove Stewart to make it.


No comments: