Photo | “Irresistible” – Busboy Productions
Jon Stewart’s wry take on the news has been missed by many over the past few inarguably newsworthy years, so you might be excited to see that he wrote and directed a movie about politics. It’s hard to believe, however, “Irresistible” came from the same sly, sarcastic guy who we knew and loved on “The Daily Show.” The movie has its funny moments, but the messaging is super overstated and the premise ends up being fairly simplistic.
Steve Carell plays Gary Zimmer, a high-powered Democratic political campaign manager who is wallowing in despair and professional humiliation after the 2016 election until a viral video of a farmer in Wisconsin gives him a glimmer of hope. Marine Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) gives an impassioned yet homespun appeal to his local legislators, which somehow manages to embrace both political sides. In the first of many narrative leaps of logic, Gary decides he will resurrect himself and his party by convincing Jack to run for mayor of (the fictional) Deerlaken, Wisc. The idea is that he can boost this small town election to the national stage and create a new ideological paradigm.
Carell is the best part of the film and Stewart did his best writing for the character, who is funny when he tries to downplay his snooty, pampered liberal lifestyle. There are some decent jokes here, and Carell is perfect for the role. Similarly, Cooper is better and more believable than he has to be as Jack, wringing genuine feeling from his role, even though he ultimately has nowhere to go with his rather loveable character.
Rose Byrne, unfortunately, has to play a cartoon witch in the role of Gary’s Republican counterpart, Faith Brewster, who descends on the town when she catches the scent of fame, cash and opportunity. Naturally, a media circus ensues. Experts in the form of Natasha Lyonne and Topher Grace are a welcome addition, as more national money pours into the respective campaign headquarters of the tiny town.
I will not ruin the twist for you, because going “huh?” at the end is one of the film’s chief pleasures. On the other hand, the film’s twist also takes the already overplayed themes of the film and literally spells them out for us. As Jack’s beautiful, wise daughter (played by Mackenzie Davis) sums up how screwed up political campaigns and elections are, she delivers a simplistic monologue that seems better suited for a social media post — the kind that makes so many people write, “This:”
“Irresistible” (and by the way, why on earth is it called that?) just seems like a movie Jon Stewart would make fun of rather than make. As smart and funny as he might be, that does not translate into a compelling overall narrative. This weak satire fits right in with movies that are considered OK to watch on TBS when they come on. I expected more from the guy whose television show was such a must-watch for years; “Irresistible” is merely watchable.
“Irresistible” is currently available to stream for rental.
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