By Jim Tortolano
“Money,” I remember hearing in my youth, “may not be the most important thing in life. But it sure beats the heck out of whatever is in second place.”
The pernicious effect of unregulated money in American politics is in first place as the villain in Jon Stewart’s slyly vicious but even-handed new film comedy “Irresistible.”
Going after cable TV news, both major parties and identity politics with all guns blazing, “Irresistible” tells the story of a disconsolate Democratic political operative (Steve Carell as Gary Zimmer) who tries to get his party to connect with rural communities and other people in the “flyover states” between Hollywood and Manhattan.
He comes upon a video of retired Marine Corps Col. Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) making an impassioned speech about immigration in a small Wisconsin town. Zimmer decides this is the template for a liberal comeback in Small Town, U.S.A.
Without much opposition, he convinces Hastings to run as a Democrat in conservative Deerlaken. His early successes attract the attention of conservative valkyrie Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), his nemesis and potential lover.
The ensuing campaign attracts national attention, and Stewart’s screenplay adroitly skewers all comers, liberal and conservative. In one scene, a Noo Yawk City party shows snobbish libs with their segregated dietary food choices and T-shirt philosophies; another demolishes a clueless Fox News panel of airheads.
If the whole thing seems a bit over-the-top, that’s because there’s another story beneath the surface. It not only shows why the campaign even started, but also how unregulated and largely untraceable political money can go on some strange journeys.
Carell is himself, which is almost always a slightly inept but likable fellow. Byrne’s character portrays one of those slim and tart-tongued blonde GOP stalwarts who populate President Trump’s favorite news network.
Cooper remains the just-folks character he often portrays, but – like the subplot, and the town’s population – is a bit more that he seems.
Stealing a few scenes is Mackenzie Davis as Diane, the colonel’s daughter. In many ways, she’s smarter than the big city slickers who come to town to try to show the hicks what’s what.
Here is a great civics lesson sugar-coated with some good comedy and accessible satire. If you want to know what’s really wrong with American politics, find this movie on your streaming service or video-on-demand. You may not be able to resist the gentle logic of this fine film.
“Irresistible” is rated R for adult language.
Categories: Arts & Leisure