By Leah Greenblatt
June 22, 2020 at 05:56 PM EDT
Advertisement
Daniel McFadden/Focus Features

In a world where a morning tweet can feel as dusty as the Dead Sea Scrolls by nightfall, it almost seems like madness to try to capture this current political moment on film.

If anyone were to give it a shot, though, it makes sense that it would be Jon Stewart, the incisive, endlessly curious mind who spent nearly two decades alternately scrutinizing and skewering America’s civic process on The Daily Show.

Maybe that’s why Irresistible feels as vaguely disappointing as it does: a slick, goofy satire too broad and soft-bellied to do much more than push all that hot air around. Steve Carell stars as Gary Zimmer, a D.C. operative brought to an ignominious low by Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016.

But hark, does he spy redemption in the flinty-eyed gaze of Colonel Jack Hastings (Oscar winner Chris Cooper), a farmer and retired Marine whose compassionate case for immigrants at a small-town hearing goes viral? He does see dollar signs, at least, and so he soon finds himself making landfall — by private jet, no less — in Deerlaken, Wis., where the beers are strictly domestic, the cheese comes in curds, and the stakes might just be small enough to offer him another shot at the body politic.

The taciturn Colonel, he raves to a donor back in New York, is "like Bill Clinton with impulse control, or a church-going Bernie Sanders with better bone density;" which is to say, he’s "a democrat, he just doesn’t know it yet." All Gary has to do is get him to run against the incumbent mayor of Deerlaken, a goal that becomes exponentially more complicated with the arrival of his chief rival, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), a blond barracuda whose morals are as mutable as her taste in oversize jewelry.

The spectacle of Faith and Gary’s big-city machinations — their elaborate polling maps and billboards and glossy attack ads — is meant to be contrasted with the folksy simplicity of Deerlaken’s citizens, who either volunteer themselves good-naturedly for one of the two campaigns or stand on the sidelines, mildly nonplussed.

But for all the talent on both sides of the camera, there’s not much real chemistry between the movie’s two ostensible leads, or room enough for its supporting cast (including Mackenzie Davis as the Colonel’s bemused daughter and Topher Grace and Natasha Lyonne as dueling pollsters) to become much more than half-drawn sketches or walking punchlines.

What Stewart, who penned the script as well as directed, seems determined to show — or rather tell — his audience is just how far our collective values have strayed when grandstanding takes the place of action, and armchair punditry becomes the enemy of all good faith. That message, alas, isn't just resistible; it's old news. C

Related content:

Comments