In Brief: Irresistible isn’t bad but it isn’t irresistible.
Irresistible is a light political comedy written and directed by Jon Stewart. The former The Daily Show TV host sets his movie in fictional Deerlaken, Wisconsin. In 2016 the state shocked the nation and went with Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton.
It is there that a lifelong Republican, Jack Hastings, defends undocumented immigrants from a mayor and a town council who want to cut programs that help them. Though it’s a small town, a Republican defending undocumented workers is big news.
Another thing that gets Hastings noticed is that the city has also fallen on hard times. The local military base has closed. Along with it, the city of Deerlaken pretty much closed down, too. People are suffering and Hastings, who is also retired military, steps in to help.
This gets the attention of Democratic Party strategist Gary Zimmer. Still reeling from Clinton’s loss, Zimmer sees a glimmer of hope to retake the state and the country for the party. And it all starts with Hastings. Upon meeting Hastings, Zimmer says he’s convinced Hastings would make a good Democrat and pushes him to run for mayor.
That leads to a high-profile media push which brings the Republicans and Zimmer’s strategist nemesis Faith Brewster to town. Muckraking and political shenanigans follow.
Steve Carell stars as Zimmer. This is the type of character he plays best. Carell is the straight man that all of Stewart’s humor revolves around. Believing the people of Deerlaken are rubes, Carell’s Zimmer pushes, prods and cajoles to get the results he wants.
I love Carell’s work and he’s very good in everything and does this kind of character better than anybody. But he doesn’t have a lot to do except panic, solve a problem, panic some more, overcome it and so on.
Hastings’ daughter, Diana runs the family farm and is ultra-organized. Zimmer is able to get her to keep the city folk in line and productive. She’s nicely done by Terminator: Dark Fate’s Mackenzie Davis.
Davis plays Diana as a smart, capable woman who at first seems like a deer caught in headlights and who later develops seriously good political skills. She does strong but sweet and innocent perfectly and easily switches to hard, smart and savvy.
It’s a really good performance from an actress with a very bright future.
Chris Cooper — also doing the character he does best — stars as Hastings. He’s a man of few words. The passion is there but he’s one of the few people in the country that Zimmer can’t quite read. Hastings is not easy to push and sometimes he makes Zimmer and everyone else wonder who is pushing who.
Plus, at a meeting of very rich Republicans, Cooper’s Hastings makes one of the best political speeches I’ve heard in a long time. That speech is the whole point behind Stewart’s movie.
It could have used more of that and less comedy.
Also hurting Stewart’s movie is a supporting cast straight out of the old Paul Henning TV series towns of Hooterville, Pixley, Crabwell Corners, and Stankwell Falls. Older readers will know them from Pettycoat Junction and Green Acres. The jokes and humor that surround them are as predictable as those found on those sitcoms and dozens of others.
That said, some of the comedy set-ups are pretty funny and Irresistible has lots of laughs. Some are intentional and some are of the eye-rolling variety and, in the end, the intentional wins out.
The premise is simple. Maybe too much so. Take some time and dig a little deeper, and what Stewart is trying to say grows darker. If he’d been a little more fearless, Stewart’s film could have been chilling.
What I love about the movie comes from the digging a little deeper part. In a simplistic and sometimes inept way, Stewart points out how we’re all being used by powerful political machines whose only goal is to keep power. That’s the end all and those machines will do anything, go to any lengths to keep power for themselves, the politicians who run them and who they run, and the power brokers behind the two political parties.
Stewart’s movie is hit and miss. In places it is profound. Other areas are a mess. For me his movie is a hit. For others it will be a miss.
One thing is for certain. Irresistible it isn’t.
Director: Jon Stewart
Stars: Steve Carell, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace, Natasha Lyonne, Natasha Brent Sexton, C.J. Wilson
It’s not an irresistible comedy and Jon Stewart really ought to have gone a bit deeper and darker with the topic of how we’re all manipulated by the political machines of both parties. Some of us more successfully than others. Give Irresistible a 4 out of 5 on the Friday Flicks with Gary 0 to 5 scale.
You can find Irresistible on several streaming sources.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.