VOD film review: Irresistible
James R | On 01, Jul 2020
Director: Jon Stewart
Cast: Steve Carell, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis
Politics. It’s not great, is it? That’s the basic point behind Irresistible, Jon Stewart’s new satirical comedy. Stewart, once the king of topical commentary during his time hosting The Daily Show, is one of the shrewdest pundits around, capable of seeing through the distraction and nonsense of the media show that modern politics has become. Irresistible is precisely about that distraction and nonsense.
The film follows Gary (Steve Carell), a consultant in Washington DC who has become jaded after the Trump election win. But when he spies a war vet-turned-farmer in the small town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin, who appears to be the kind of Republican-friendly liberal the Democrat Party needs, he hops in his rental car to convince him to come aboard. Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) doesn’t take much convincing to run for Mayor, and so begins Gary’s quest to position him as a future presidential candidate in the making.
Gary’s plotting, and presence, attracts the attention of Faith (Rose Byrne), his counterpart from the Republican National Committee, and what starts as a local contest escalates into a full-on campaign war. What ensues is the usual kind of politicking we’ve come to expect from both real life and political satires, from TV interviews gone wrong to leaflets targeted by computer data and algorithms – one moment where pamphlets promoting contraception are accidentally plastered over a neighbourhood of nuns is a familiar but amusing idea.
But from Jack’s apparently naive daughter (an underused Mackenzie Davis) whom Gary considers a romantic interest to the banter between him and Faith, the familiar nature of every story beat and joke begins to wear you down; in an age of Donald Trump, Dominic Cummings and Vladimir Putin, the notion of a comedy simply reminding us that electioneering has taken democracy away from its purpose feels curiously old-fashioned.
A late development takes the script into more interesting territory, as Stewart’s cynical sense of humour really kicks into gear, but that only highlights the missed opportunity of what could have been a very different story from a very different perspective. Instead, we’re left relying on the cast to bring some chuckles to the table, from Carell’s obnoxious spin artist to Byrne clearly enjoying herself as the horrible Faith. There’s some fun in their exchanges, but not enough to give this disappointingly blunt tale the sharp edge it’s missing. There’s zooming out to think beyond the current White House occupant, who can only stay in power for a limited number of years, and there’s not feeling relevant at all. Irresistible tries to see through the distraction of modern politics, but gets distracted from its own point along the way.