I love Hugh Grant movies. I adore how Grant’s dodgy poshness — his lascivious grin, his squinty eyes, his bashful post-Divine Brown mug shot — lends duplicity to his romantic heroes. His unabashed cad tears through Bridget Jones’s Diary with such vigor, I still wonder why Bridget chooses dreary Colin Firth instead.
American Dreamz casts Grant as a talentless git profiting off our appetite for pop and pathos. As Simon Cowell stand-in ”Tweedy” Tweed, overseer of an American Idol-esque titular reality show, he orders producers to find wretched contestants: ”Bring me some freaks!” Tweed despises himself enough to drive recklessly and lose his attentive girlfriend, but he doesn’t relinquish his television empire: Writer-director Paul Weitz won’t let us easily condemn either consumption or success.
Both Grant and Dennis Quaid have done some of their finest acting under Weitz (in About a Boy and In Good Company, respectively). After his reelection, Quaid’s dim-witted president decides to start reading newspapers; when his Karl Rovian puppet master (Willem Dafoe) suppresses the prez’s curiosity, Quaid collapses in tears. ”I always wanted to do a movie about a president having a nervous breakdown,” says Weitz in his commentary. ”I combined that with the idea of a guy that is willfully…not being exposed to complex information.” This isn’t an SNL-style send-up of Bush: The film’s most poignant ”American dream” is the hope that our own president harbors such remorse.