Reviews For The Uneasily Quarantined:

Title: Irresistible

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:

KODOS: It's true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about it? It's a two-party system. You have to vote for one of us.
MAN: Well I believe I'll vote for a third-party candidate.
KANG: Go ahead, throw your vote away.
ROSS PEROT: [punches hat]
Brief Plot Synopsis: Swing state becomes new front in electoral battle.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2 Bart Starrs out of 5.

Tagline: "Send in the clowns this spring."

Better Tagline: "It's summer, but whatever."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: After the demoralizing results of the 2016 Presidential election, Democratic campaign strategist Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) sees a viral video of retired Marine Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) speaking in defense of immigrants. Inspired, he convinces Hastings to run for mayor of his small Wisconsin town of Deerlaken. But things really pick up when his Republican rival Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) figures out what he's up to and decides to get in on the action.

"Critical" Analysis: Former Daily Show anchor Jon Stewart's second feature (the first was 2014's Rosewater) takes broad swipes at several subjects: the so-called Heartland of America, political hacks, pollsters, and the media. The main focus of his ire, however, is the broken campaign financial system, and Irresistible would have been a lot more powerful if he'd concentrated on that from the jump.

It's not clear, at first, how much we're supposed to sympathize with Zimmer. He's a stereotypical DC insider who's almost cartoonishly incredulous that the citizens of Deerlaken are genuinely friendly Midwesterners (as read about in a thousand New York Times articles) who welcome his overtures with mild amusement.

And maybe it's plausible that a guy who's worked on multiple Presidential campaigns would have to do a Wikipedia search for "Wisconsin." Prior to 2016, the state hadn't been in play electorally since Bush the First. But this broad brush hurts rather than helps Stewart's main thrust: that the way we manage elections is hurting democracy.

Inspired by a Georgia Congressional campaign that was (as of now) the most expensive in American history, the movie unfortunately spends a good chunk of time early on relying on city slicker fish-out-of-water tropes (My Fellow Americans and Welcome to Mooseport are clear spiritual antecedents), that accomplish little besides diluting an otherwise effective ending.

What's frustrating about Irresistible is how it feels the need to cover such worn ground. Are political operatives out of touch with everyday Americans? Possibly. Does the media spend too much time framing stories as strictly binary narratives? Sure. Could we have gotten that message in a more straightforward way? Almost certainly. Stewart himself already made these points in 2004 when he went after Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala on Crossfire.

Absent that level of earnestness, Irresistible works best when it veers into the absurd: Brewster brazenly claiming on national TV that Deerlaken is her hometown; the near-dead, mech-suit wearing billionaire quizzing Hastings on his stance on Israel; the preponderance of flannel-clad beardos in rural Wisconsin. Had Stewart focused more on this, instead of walking on safer middle ground, it might have gone down more easily.

Irresistible isn't a complete failure. There's too much talent on hand (especially Byrne, Cooper, and Mackenzie Davis as the Colonel's daughter Diana) and even the watered-down messaging is still vital. Call it a swing (state) and a miss.

Irresistible is now showing in select theaters and on VOD.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar