The entire purpose of Jon Stewart’s Irresistible seems to be an exercise on how both sides can p*ss into the wind without getting their pants wet.
The word of mouth of Jon Stewart’s new film and the ending of his 12-year hiatus from directing his first film has been, to put it politely, bad. To put it impolitely, it has been horrendous. Especially when you listen to the esteemed, blue checkmark type of film critics. In my experience, usually, opinions are to the left and right of the extreme, but the truth usually always lays somewhere in-between. The argument that Stewart’s politics haven’t changed isn’t really an issue — people rarely, if ever, change. It’s the film’s extraordinarily weak setup and frustratingly uneven tone from Stewart’s own script that makes Irresistible such a tepid satire.
Stewart tries to, at the start anyway, lay out a satirical story of a democratic political consultant, Gary Zimmer (Steve Carrell, who in need of a Hollywood project comes across a YouTube video of a retired Marine colonel named Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) questioning the Republican values of his small Wisconsin town. Hastings, who has just outed himself as a democrat in the video, or apparently never realized he was one, is then approached by Zimmer to run for mayor of Deerlaken, Wisconsin. He will be fully backed by rich donors, powerful Washington Democrats, and anonymous super PACs of, again, a town of 5,000 people.
Irresistible’s numerous issues aside, it simply can’t get off the ground with its extraordinarily weak and vague setup. The main point seems to be Carrell’s Zimmer is bored, rich, and needs something to do. There is no motive or springboard for investing over forty-five million dollars into a campaign of a town mayoral race that’s on its way to becoming a hamlet. Rose Byrne pops up as a Republican political consultant for the other side, a Kellyanne Conway type, whose only motivation is that she’s a woman scorned with a past with Zimmer and petty professional differences. Frankly, her character is added so randomly and has so little to do it smells of a part being rewritten after a big name was added to the cast.
To theorize, the entire purpose of this film seems to be how both sides can p*ss into the wind without getting their pants wet. So, the jokes on the parties and the ridiculousness of the media play as the ringleader in the circus? The film actually trivializes the importance of the voting process and the real changes that need to be made instead of the Hollywood kind.
Despite it all, Chris Cooper continues to churn out good performances and makes Hastings a real, authentic figure — his speech at a DC fundraiser is particularly effective. Carrell seems to play the same character in the majority of his roles and really brings nothing new to the character. Byrne comes in too late, and their rivalry needed to be the focus of the story or needed to be scrapped entirely.
There are some moments that are insightful and entertaining. For instance, the banter and small moments between a local baker, Ann (Blair Sams), and Zimmer are fun. The best scenes of the film are Carrell finding entertaining ways to handle area volunteers and how he works around donation guidelines; these moments really are the film’s meal ticket and are too few. The time is used to focus on DNC staffers, and the result is you don’t gain enough knowledge of either side, the political or economic.
Jon Stewart creates such a frustratingly uneven tone from his own script — it can shift to being gross-out humor and even a comic strip, like a bizarre cameo by Rachel Getting Married‘s Bill Irwin that feels like it was held over from a different script. This should have and could have been a better film with a tighter focus. Unfortunately, all of this makes Irresistible a weak and tepid satire.
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M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.