Written and Directed by Jon Stewart
Starring Steve Carell, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace, Natasha Lyonne, C.J. Wilson, Will Sasso, Debra Messing, and Brent Sexton
A Democratic strategist helps a retired veteran run for mayor in a small, conservative Midwest town.
Former The Daily Show host Jon Stewart stepping back into the realm of political comedy is certainly enticing, but Irresistible turns out to be wasted effort and then some. The talk show host turned filmmaker (he directed Rosewater in 2014 which was a moderate success) has a clever idea for this narrative, which basically boils down to both a Democratic and Republican political campaign strategizer and rivals trying to win over a rural Wisconsin town to help win over the swing state for the upcoming presidential election. It’s just executed so poorly that it leaves the preceding 90 minutes blatantly idiosyncratic and not funny. Even when secrets are revealed, Irresistible doesn’t retroactively become a stroke of comedic genius or passable.
Steve Carell is on the politically left side of things, playing Gary Zimmer. He’s apparently frustrated that he was made out to look like a fool in the 2016 election that saw Donald Trump victoriously upset Hillary Clinton, somehow at the hands of Rose Byrne’s Faith Brewster. Gary is more concerned with his own personal humiliation than the state of the world around him, so when he comes across a viral YouTube speech from a conservative and ex-military serviceman named Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper, who really gives the only good performance in the movie as an honest blue-collar rancher) urging his Wisconsin town to be better, he decides that he can convince the man that he is actually a Democrat and to run for mayor. Except he really just wants to provoke another campaign battle with Faith.
So much of Irresistible plays off of the same one-note joke that Gary, as a hoity-toity snob from Washington, doesn’t know how to talk to lower class citizens and those practicing conservative values. The sane kind of conservative values mind you; this movie is so toothless and safe it genuinely doesn’t give a damn about exploring sensitive or touching material; consider it the Green Book of political campaign movies. And this is coming from someone that sort of actually liked Green Book.
Gary’s interactions with the locals are meant to be funny, but not for reasons you would expect. There is a creative direction here heavily foreshadowing that something bizarre is going on in the town as if its a light variation of Twin Peaks. Everyone acts odd, pretty much every dialogue exchange is awkward, it’s never really clear why, and even when it’s explained, it’s more of just a smart idea that goes to waste. The broader comedic moments are actually worse, seeing Gary and Faith at one point making a heated bet where the loser has to perform fellatio on the winner. Steve Carell also appears to be under the direction to play things like he’s in The 40-Year-Old Virgin instead of a grounded political comedy, constantly shrieking and making loud noises and overly expressive facial tics. It also doesn’t help that whatever rivalry Gary and Faith do have is barely explored.
Irresistible is actually aimless (complete with thankless roles for MacKenzie Davison and Topher Grace) until it randomly decides to show its cards and end. Naturally, Jon Stewart is trying to make a political statement here, but it comes across hollow, unbelievable, and too clean. At most, it might be enlightening to someone that doesn’t understand how these races work, and there is a nice photography of small-town America, but that’s about all there is on the recommendation front. One of the last things the world needs right now is a politically safe comedy that barely generates any laughs
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com