" Commies are brilliant. "
— Christopher Walken, Blast from the Past

MRQE Top Critic

The Horse Whisperer

(review...)

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The last 10 minutes almost make Irresistible a winner. Almost.

A Redder Kind of Blue

Gary and Faith fight in a war of the words
Gary and Faith fight in a war of the words

The movie starts with a cannonball to the gut. Literally. It’s a humorous film clip, tied in with the events of Nov. 8, 2016.

That was Election Day in the United States and the day Donald J. Trump blindsided a media clearly anticipating the ascension of Hillary Clinton.

From there, writer/director Jon Stewart (of The Daily Show fame) goes on something of a quest to right perceived wrongs. The setting is Deerlaken, Wisconsin. A true-blue political consultant, Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell, The Big Short), exits his comfort zone of Washington, D.C. mayhem in order to assess the state of a mayoral race in this Heartland, USA town. A video’s gone viral of a retired Marine colonel (Chris Cooper, Breach) raising a ruckus at a city council meeting. With the closing of the military base, Deerlaken’s lost most of its businesses and people have fled the area in order to prosper elsewhere. But, the colonel asserts, that doesn’t mean Deerlaken should turn its back on the undocumented. Like a Golden Retriever responding to a dog whistle, Gary rushes to the scene.

Unfortunately for Gary, his long-time political nemesis, right-winger Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne, Hulu’s Mrs. America), is also on the scene, conspiring — or collaborating, depending on your view — with the incumbent mayor.

It’s turf that is totally ripe for a satire, but Stewart mimics real-world antics too closely for too much of the proceedings.

Still the Same

To his credit, Stewart manages to keep things fairly balanced while skewering both Democrats and Republicans, although it’s a given there’s an underlying current that favors the blue range of the spectrum. But, while the equal-opportunity shredding is generally a good thing, it’s also a problem.

Watching most of Irresistible unfold is little too much like watching the lying and the spinning, the venom and the vitriol that fills what passes as news programming over the air and through the cable. It doesn’t matter if it’s Fox News or CNN (the Constantly Negative Network). It’s tiresome hearing the bickering as one loud mouthpiece tries to out-rant an opposing mouthpiece. To that end, a 12-screen video panel of 12 constantly yammering talking heads hits the mark and even CNN’s Candy Crowley gets in on the act with a humorous panel discussion that ultimately concedes the media and D.C. really want to keep things the way they are, broken and all.

But, still, it’s not a particularly enjoyable experience watching Carell and Byrne go through profanity-laden matches of verbal jousting. That makes the satire less fun than it should be and, by merely mimicking the tenor of the real world, it also lacks the bite this material sorely needs to take things to the next level and really make an impression. That’s all the more disappointing given Stewart’s background with a long-running show focused on political humor. Where’s the value-added insight? It’s missing, until those last 10 minutes.

Sure, there are several cutesy parodies of campaign commercials (seemingly playing ad nauseam year-round these days). But, they’re also obvious and a little old hat. Check out what Ben Stiller did years ago in his Zoolander movies and think about where this movie could’ve gone with politics, considering the looney heights Stiller took his high-fashion setting.

The Election Economy

Given the world of political consulting ultimately lies in the art of manipulation, particularly emotional manipulation — given it’s all about the stagecraft and creating a narrative that may or may not have any bearing in reality — maybe this all would’ve worked better as a full-on mockumentary. Throw in the creative tangents found in Adam McKay’s The Big Short and Vice. Put some honey in with the vinegar.

Maybe the problem is Stewart’s still cutting his teeth in the world of feature directing; this is only his second directorial effort, following the 2014 drama Rosewater, which was based on a true story.

Regardless of the shortcomings in pursuing the concept’s full potential, the movie ultimately lands another punch to the gut as the movie ends with its own election day.

While enduring the satire that feels all too real, there’s a desire to see Stewart cut loose and turn things upside-down. Make those consultants pay for their misdeeds. It takes 90 minutes to get there, but, finally, there’s a doozy of a twist as the tables turn on D.C. politics and the players get played. The twist hinges on a very real possibility, one Stewart elucidates during an end-credits interview segment.

Boom. But it’s a boom that comes to late for this movie’s own good.

They say money is the root of all evil. But, most certainly, power is its own corrupting influence. That, ultimately, is the crux of the problem, but Irresistible resists going that far.