Irresistible

I’m not sure I understand the title, but it’s a perfect description all the same.

I sat through Jon Stewart’s new film Irresistible tonight, sometimes moaning sometimes laughing but unable to tear myself away.

So whatever it means, the title is a pretty accurate description. I surrendered to it.

Whether it’s opera, theatre or film, I’m often less interested in the material than in the opportunity to watch the talent at work. There are some people I’ve never seen in a bad movie.

Chris Cooper? I first noticed him in American Beauty (1999) although in short order he seemed to be in every movie I was watching, making an impact even in small roles. In Irresistible he might be the character to whom the epithet might be applied, as Jack, the former Marine whose youtube diatribe propels him to fame as the great hope of the Democratic Party in rural America.

Ever wonder what Jon Stewart has been up to? This is certainly one answer, namely writing & directing this film. I miss Stewart who was for me the most eloquent yet pointed critic of the American political scene on his Daily Show: until he left in 2015. While Irresistible might be just his second time as a director, based on what I saw, it won’t be his last. The dialogue is authentic, sometimes infuriatingly real, and always fluid. The pace is natural. I couldn’t tear myself away.

I’m a great admirer of Steve Carell, especially his voice work as Gru in the Despicable Me films. I like him, and so was stunned to watch him cast against type as Gary, a total jerk working for the Democratic Party. Carell is well cast given that he resembles a nice guy enough to lull you into believing him to be a nice guy: until you listen to what he’s just said. Repeatedly through the film I was wtf-ing aloud, watching him rampage through the film, and recognizing this energy. I think we’ve seen people just like this. The writing & performance capture something real.

Yes, Stewart is doing something really important, as he dissects the Democrats, especially in Carell’s character, who is pathologically insincere. While he faces off against a blatant liar from the GOP, played exquisitely by Rose Byrne, we see a different species of liar in Gary the well-meaning operative who talks down to people without noticing how insulting & inauthentic he is. For me it captures the ongoing disaster that has been the Democratic Party: perhaps even now.

Alongside Cooper, Mackenzie Davis as Jack’s daughter Diana is the other pillar of integrity. And the rural Wisconsinites in a variety of smaller roles are also understood as honest, while the big city folk who descend upon the small town offer varieties of creepiness. While it may be a bit mechanical as I describe it for you, it works really well, especially once you mix in the surprises Stewart has in store in the last half-hour of the film.

I’m looking forward to watching again tomorrow. And I’m wondering if the Democrats can stop doing what we see in this film, and yes, on the news too. Stewart’s diagnosis feels absolutely right.

But can they change?

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