Irresistible, Affable but Ill-Timed

And I’d feel the same way had it been released four months ago or four years ago. Jon Stewart’s new film isn’t ill-timed because of a once-in-a-generation pandemic or the greatest civil rights movement in decades. It’s ill-timed because, in the age of Trump, we simply can’t tolerate any both-sides-isms anymore. The stakes are too high and the issues too urgent. Without spoiling some of the admittedly surprising twists and turns, Irresistible takes a zeitgeisty premise and instead of using it to call attention to the myriad of other diseases infecting the United States of America, Stewart uses it to call out both parties for a symptom of said diseases we’ve been aware of and, as voters, done nothing about for decades. Entertaining and occasionally funny, largely thanks to Steve Carell’s infrequent channeling of Michael Scott and the always reliable Rose Byrne, his film is an affable if somewhat tone-deaf call to action on campaign finance reform.

Chris Cooper provides sturdy, compassionate masculinity as a farmer in a small Wisconsin town whose liberal monologue at a city council meeting goes viral, attracting the likes of Carell’s DNC political whisperer Gary Zimmer and, like a moth to the flame, his whip-smart GOP rival and routine travel fling (Byrne). Zimmer wants him to run for Mayor against the conservative incumbent, and when Farmer Cooper agrees, events are set in motion that turn the rural enclave of Deerlaken into a political lightening rod for the country. Stewart is attempting to bridge the divide between right and left or red and blue by skewering the so-called “Washington elite” and cable news like CNN and FOX. The targets are both too easy and often simplified, with Stewart judging them on black and white terms and even at times echoing Agent Orange himself for reasons I don’t understand. The entire film is a slight bait-and-switch which, on its own terms, isn’t a bad thing. But after ninety minutes of condescending to rural America, it’s difficult to shake such bad “humor” no matter how insincere or “all for the bit” it was.

P.S. there’s an amusing before-credits and after-credits zinger aimed at Zimmer’s delusion that a big shot like him might have a chance with Cooper’s twenty-eight year-old daughter (Mackenzie Davis).

Grade: C+

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