by Kyle Arango
Jon Stewart has had a very loud and interesting career. He was ahead of the game when it comes to comedy talk shows with his discussions on politics before it was popular. Nowadays we see every late-night talk show host revolve their entire show around politics including Colbert, Myers, and Kimmel. Ever since leaving The Daily Show, that passion has not gone away and now he is directing his second feature film. What’s the topic? You guessed it, politics! The result is a lackluster but noble attempt to portray a point that falters under the lack of experience and direction from Jon Stewart.
Irresistible follows Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell), a democratic strategist who sees something in a veteran in a small town and decides he is the juice the party needs to get back on the map. So, he convinces him to run for mayor against the republican incumbent and flip this Wisconsin town to blue for the first time in its history. What we have now is a campaign movie about an underdog who is fighting for change against the large political machine. At least, that is what they want you to think they have. Instead of the movie being about the candidates, it becomes about the strategists who Jon Stewart thinks are contributing to the downfall of democracy. That’s the problem with this movie where it just feels so unfocused even though you can tell they have a clear focus. It is presented as a comedy but has zero laughs and as a result leaves you wondering what the point of all this was. You have a great cast, a passionate director, and relevant plot material. Where did it all go wrong?
Where it went wrong was in the direction and I hate to dogpile on Jon Stewart here, but all the problems point to him. He is clearly very angry at the political system and wants to present his thoughts in a broad way. Some of his points are very clever and you can see them, but they are few and far between because he just doesn’t get how to say it the right way. His message is only halfway clear so us as an audience feel like something is missing. Unfortunately, what is missing is direction. His lack of experience behind the camera shows when this film comes across as an amateur production with a studio budget. The high caliber actors and set designs can only get you so far. Steve Carell and Rose Byrne are very funny and tremendous actors, but they are so badly misdirected that they just feel lost. It is as if they are in a different movie than the story, they are in. With more experience, a director would’ve been able to give them the right pointers and notes to make them feel consistent but that just wasn’t the case here. All of it leads to a revelation at the end that comes out of nowhere and makes the film feel like a giant waste. It gets to the finish line, but not before a giant brick wall raises from the ground and hits it in the face knocking it on its back.
Irresistible is not a complete wash of a film even though it may seem like I disliked it. I was rather entertained, just not impressed. This movie is very angry, and I like when films are angry because it makes you want to pay attention. You can hear them even if they don’t articulate their thoughts clearly. Jon Stewart is trying to tell us that money runs the political system and only shows up to small towns every four years to give them empty promises in exchange for votes. He has a point! In fact, he is very much correct. I just wish he had said it better. There are great moments in here that help him drive his point. Chris Cooper as the veteran gives a great speech to a bunch of rich donors about how they are the problem and you can almost see Jon Stewart in Steve Carell as he listens to his own dialogue. You take this and add in the tension of a mounting election and you got me. I will watch any movie with a campaign because I love the ups and downs they always go through. Its solid entertainment, just like a courtroom drama.
Irresistible is not as bad as most people are trying to tell you, but its also not very good either. It just has no reason to really exist and the points it is trying to make have been done better in other campaign movies. Jon Stewart focuses on Steve Carell but forgets to utilize the rest of his incredible cast because he is so focused on his points and even those are muddled. I look forward to Stewart’s next directing attempt as hopefully this is a good learning experience for him.