Irresistible (2020): Film Review
Updated: Jul 24, 2020
After a swing and a miss with his directorial debut Rosewater in 2014, former Daily Show host Jon Stewart steps up to bat again with something closer to his comfort zone: a satirical look at political parties and the lies, deception, and competition that comes with campaigning in the United States - like Alexander Payne’s Election per se, but with higher stakes. The problem: the films lacks any of the heart and quick wit that the great movies about politics actually have.
Upon seeing a viral video of Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) opening up his heart to the citizens of Deerlaken, Wisconsin (or as the film refers to it - Heartland, USA), Democratic strategist Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) senses a golden opportunity. The self-proclaimed “liar” pitches a unheard of idea to his superiors: traveling to the Colonel’s town of 5,000 to help this online hero win the town’s mayoral election and change the tide of the swing-state for elections to come. His plan is eventually approved, and the Google Images embodiment of a Liberal elite heads to the middle of the Midwest, where he hopes a “Bud and a burger” will help him blend in with the stereotypical small-town Conservatives and his ideas will help gain some blue votes.
Quite early into the film, it’s quite obvious that Stewart (who penned the script) hopes to balance humor, drama, and effective messaging into a film that can have a bit for everyone. Unfortunately, these attempts fail from the get-go, as all of the characters (including the lead characters) are written like a caricature emphasizing what each political party “represents” rather than harboring an autonomous and human-like feel to them. Furthermore, instead of letting viewers understand the main characters’ qualities and backstories, Stewart wastes time with over-exaggerated attempts at comedy that exhaust every stereotype at this movie’s disposal, often making scenes both unfunny and downright uncomfortable.
As Hastings’ (and Zimmer’s) campaign begins gaining some traction around the townsfolk, Republican strategist Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) enters the scene, taunting Zimmer at whatever chance the gets and essentially turning the small town into a political battlefield, where the townspeople become pawns in a noisy battle between the elites on each side. Quite often in the film, and during almost every scene they are in together, Stewart tries to romanticize Zimmer and Brewster’s relationship, which fails drastically not only because Carrell and Byrne have no chemistry, but also because the movie just isn’t very funny.
Although it doesn’t feel that way most of the time, Irresistible has its moments. The film operates at it’s best when it lets the Colonel and the rest of the townspeople take the stage and act like actual people do, rather than shoving them in the background at the main characters’ disposal. There’s a story worth exploring with those characters, but unfortunately there just isn’t enough space for the film to breathe with all of its draining attempts at being unique and funny.
At multiple points in the film, especially when taking the film’s final “twist” into account, it becomes difficult to understand why Stewart chose to write and direct this movie, as it essentially has nothing going for it. Sure, there may be multiple warranted points about how excessive and polarizing politics can be, but those ideas feel meaningless because the film doesn’t possess a strong enough tone to relay those themes in an effective way. To put it simply, the film just suffers from a lack of energy. And if you’re a satire centered around the world of politics, being tired is the worst thing you can possibly be.