Friday, June 26, 2020

'Irresistible' Isn't

Cakes and pies? Now THAT'S irresistible.

Not having Jon Stewart around nightly to skewer the current President is a something I believe a huge swath of the country can agree has been a huge loss. I don't think Jon Stewart could have saved us from Donald Trump, but I do believe he would have at least made the last four years a little less painful.

At least, that's what I thought before watching Irresistible, the new comedy he wrote and directed. Now I'm wondering if the last four years have crushed him too.

While the film is set in a post-2016 election America, I will give it props for not giving Trump any screen time, or even much of a mention once the story moves past that cursed day after the election. But what helped to get Trump elected, and what has continued to fester since 2016, is certainly a big part of the story.

Steve Carell stars as Gary Zimmer, a Democratic campaign advisor who helped Hilary Clinton lose the election. But things like that don't ever seem to mean an advisor is now out of a job. They just move on to the next potential winner, who Gary believes will be Marine Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), after seeing a viral video of the Colonel berating the mayor of his small town for cutting funding to a local aid program that benefits immigrant workers.

That the Colonel is a Republican farmer in, as the film titles it, "Rural America, Heartland USA" (or Wisconsin, you choose), is exactly why Zimmer zeros in on him. He "looks like a Republican, but sounds like a Democrat," and to Zimmer, someone like that could save the Democratic party--and himself.

The cynical, liberal easterner invading a salt-of-the-earth middle American town is not a new trope. Nor is the story of an idealistic newcomer to politics being manipulated and corrupted by the political machine. Which is why I spent the majority of the movie wondering why Jon Stewart was bothering with such a familiar and predictable story.

Don't get me wrong, familiar and predictable can still be entertaining, if the jokes and performances land. But Irresistible just isn't funny. Rose Byrne as a Kellyanne Conway-esque Republican counterpart has a few amusing moments, and is an indication of where the film could have gone if Stewart was willing to go a bit broader. But Carell's Zimmer spends the majority of the movie being pretty unlikable. And when he starts to develop an attraction to the Colonel's 20-something daughter (Mackenzie Davis) I really began to question Stewart's judgment.

And then...the movie takes a turn. I won't say more than that, but will say, Stewart's true intent becomes clear, and it's certainly better than the movie that proceeded it. But it's too little too late. The whole thing comes to a screeching end that left me thinking it would have made a much better Daily Show segment than the labored 100 minutes I just sat through.

Irresistible is now available to rent on most VOD platforms.