The 400-Word Review: Irresistible
By Sean Collier
June 25, 2020
If you’re a producer, the descriptor “fictional political comedy” is intimidating. Even during a calmer national climate, it’s tough to make a serious point about the system and be deeply funny at the same time. The more successful comedies set in the halls of power, such as last year’s underrated “Long Shot,” keep their social commentary relatively sparse and emphasize the antics.
Our current climate is anything but calm, of course, making the journey all that much harder for “Irresistible,” a new heartland parable starring Steve Carell. It is not a deeply funny movie; it is more a dry satire and an extended “what-if?” than a raucous comedy, despite the skills of a very funny cast. It has a point, yes, and that point is well made; I just don’t know if it’s a movie so much as an extended hypothetical.
Carell plays Gary Zimmer, a career DNC operative who is impressed by an impassioned town-hall speech from Col. Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), a Wisconsin farmer. Zimmer thinks this guy is the key to the left reconnecting with middle America, a star-spangled patriot who thinks with old-school, democratic principles.
Despite the low profile of the town’s mayoral race, Zimmer takes over personally, hoping to win national attention by flipping a small town blue — and to create a new Democratic superstar in the process. His involvement draws a right-wing rival (Rose Byrne) to the small town and turns the race into a national flash point.
Obviously, the film’s writer/director — a guy named Jon Stewart — knows plenty about political comedy. With “The Daily Show,” he practically defined it for the 21st century. His approach, however, does not necessarily lend itself to narrative; while the argument in “Irresistible” is sturdy, its structure is not. The characters are thin, the pacing is clunky and the town does not feel genuine, no matter how many baked goods Zimmer devours.
At multiple points, Stewart plays extended sections of Bob Seger’s wistful “Still the Same,” a classic bit of rock melancholy, over reflective moments. To me, that says he feels this story deeply; clearly, he thinks there’s something important happening here. From a sociopolitical commentary perspective, there is. From a cinematic perspective, it feels distant.
His cast bails him out; “Irresistible” is not a slog. But it’s hard to imagine the film having a lasting impact, either as a story or an argument.
My Rating: 5/10
“Irresistible” is available via digital on-demand services.