Review: Irresistible (2020)

Irresistible. Directed by Jon Stewart. Focus Features, 2020.

Premiere Impressions

            After recently completing The West Wing, I’ve been clamoring for more intelligently written political stories. Jon Stewart’s sophomore directorial effort, Irresistible, now available on demand, seemed like the perfect substitute. Though the film does have some hints of potential, Irresistible is unfocused and uneven.

            Irresistible centers on Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell), a democratic strategist who journeys to Wisconsin to lead a former colonel and current farmer, Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), to a democratic win in a rural, republican town. Once the campaign picks up traction, the Republican Committee sends in Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), a rival strategist, to try and win back the town. Though Byrne and Carell are both actors with great range, their antagonistic chemistry is sorely lacking, which is a shame since a great amount of the conflict in the script revolves around their competition.

            Stewart’s film suffers from a general sense of confusion, in both tone and style. First, the film’s attempts at comedy are less than winning. Carell’s comedic timing is put to good use on occasion, but his effectiveness as a comedian is hampered by a script with little punch. The script resorts to just adding in the F word whenever there has been a lull. Carell pulls some of these moments off, but there are more misses than hits.

            Secondly, Stewart’s directorial choices are inconsistent at best and jolting at worst. The film’s prologue suggests a The Big Short-esque use of the metalogue—a monologue aimed at the audience, removed from the diagesis of the film—yet, the device is never used again. The 2016 election is represented through a clip of a literal gut punch, but no similar technique appears again. The most puzzling choice comes in the film’s epilogue, which again tries something new just for the hell of it, and it ends the film on a completely flat note.

            The film draws a distinct line between the people who buy into and perpetuate the political system, such as strategists and the media, and those who don’t, aka American citizens. Except, the film’s twist, even though it intends to put the political power back in the hands of the “regular” people, unintentionally argues for a politically savvy average American, who would then also perpetuate the use of politics for their own gain. If this sounds a bit complex, please believe me when I tell you that it is only because of the film’s shallow level of thought, rather than intellectual depth.

Post-Screening Snippets

  • I wanted to watch this because I knew Debra Messing was in it, and she is literally in one scene; luckily, she has the funniest and most effectively satirical moment in the film.

The Final Tea

            “Who is this for?” is the question that keeps circling my mind. The film clearly intends to target its message at someone, but who? Are politically minded folx supposed to watch the film and have a big realization about the system they buy into? Everyone, and I am confident when I say everyone, knows that politics are fueled by money. The average viewer may not know the specifics of the rules regarding PACs and campaign strategy, but everyone knows that campaigns are an enormous and egregious use of funds. The problem here is that the film’s message is treated like a big reveal, not like a piece of common knowledge to build on.

GRADE: C-

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