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 an issue — people rarely, if ever, change. The film’s fragile setup and frustratingly uneven tone from Stewart’s script make Irresistible such a tepid satire.
Stewart tries to, at the start anyway, layout 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 never realized he was one, is then approached by Zimmer to run for mayor of Deerlaken, Wisconsin. He will be fully backed by wealthy 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 fragile 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 trivializes the importance of the voting process and the fundamental changes that need to be made instead of Hollywood.
Despite it all, Chris Cooper continues to churn out good performances and makes Hastings an actual, authentic figure — his speech at a DC fundraiser is particularly effective. Carrell seems to play the same character in most of his roles and brings nothing new to the surface. Byrne comes in too late, and their rivalry needed to be the focus of the story or needed to be scrapped entirely.
Some moments are insightful and entertaining. For instance, the banter and small moments between a local baker, Ann (Blair Sams), and Zimmer are fun. The film’s best scenes are Carrell finding entertaining ways to handle area volunteers and how he works around donation guidelines; these moments 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 script — it can shift to 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 been a better film with a tighter focus. Unfortunately, all of this makes Irresistible a weak and tepid satire.
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