Review: Irresistible

As an American who was only physically present in the U.S. during the Trump administration for, at most, two weeks out of the year, I found former Daily Show host Jon Stewart’s comedy about the foibles of political gamesmanship both phony and too earnest. Essentially a Democrat’s owning up to the fact that he didn’t do enough to prevent Trump’s election, Stewart’s directorial debut plays both sides of the matter against the center, where he presumably exists, but in the end his even-handedness comes across as false, if not downright dishonest.

Steve Carrell is deep within his wheelhouse as Gary Zimmer, a successful Democratic consultant who was so blindsinded by the Trump victory that he thinks of packing it all in, but then he comes across a video of farmer and former marine Jack (Chris Cooper) giving a speech at a civic Q&A session in his small town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin, railing against the Republican mayor’s plan to force everyone to carry ID, presumably to check on illegal immigrants, saying that isn’t what he fought for, and Gary thinks he found his way back into the promised land. He immediately flies to Wisconsin and recruits Jack as a possible Democratic spoiler in the predominantly Republican town by stressing those values that Democrats usually have a lock on—or so Democrats think. Most of the comedy springs from Gary’s failure to navigate the cultural contours of Deerlaken while making Jack palatable to coastal elites. Of course, once Gary’s Republican counterparts, most prominently blonde GOP operative Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), descend on the town as well and try to gum up Gary’s machine, problems accelerate. In fact, it’s the scenes between Faith and Gary, full of sexual tension and delivered with the kind of screwball accuracy that was once de rigeuer in Hollywood comedies, that prove Stewart’s bona fides as a promising filmmaker, but his real goal is trying to show how both parties miss what’s vital about real America.

If I don’t buy it, it’s because the kind of sentiments that Trump unleashed in the so-called heartland were genuinely scary, and Stewart does little more than make fun of them. The plan here seems to be to ridicule both-sidesism, but actually both sides are not equal, at least not in terms of how they will eventually affect the middle and lower classes, including many people who think they were better off with Trump. And by saving most of its ire for Stewart’s own industry, he basically falls into the trap that the extremes at both ends of the political spectrum have set for him and his liberal ilk, which is that it’s the media who are indeed the enemy of the people. The big joke that drops like a bomb at the end of Irresistible is also a big disappointment, since it succumbs to the age-old myth that plain folks are wise to the machinations of elites and thus know how to manipulate them to their advantage. That’s another Hollywood cliche, and one that takes on a particularly sinister cast in post-Trump America. 

Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Shibuya Cine Quinto (03-3477-5905), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024).

Irresistible home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2021 Focus Features LLC

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