Spoiler Warning: Vulgarity
I had returned home after a long day at work. It was a Sunday night and I wanted to watch something fun and mindless. Why I thought a political satire from Jon Stewart was a good idea is beyond me. Perhaps, the film’s sub two-hour runtime was enough to sway me; or maybe I was tired of seeing it in my HBO Max watchlist. However, I cannot say I regret the decision I made.
I found two things interesting about Stewart’s second directorial effort, Irresistible: first, the film’s farcical indictment of the U.S. electoral system. Steve Carrell and Rose Byrne play opposite each other as Democrat and Republican strategists, who have turned a small town in Wisconsin into a battleground. They play up their characters well and to comedic effect. Carrell is a caricature of liberal elitism as fictional Democrat strategist Gary Zimmer. He sports more vests than an Eddie Bauer catalog, and his Tesla key ring and private jet catering elevate him to douche-tier status. But Gary’s heart is in the right place…sort of. He wants to regain a foothold in the now swing state of Wisconsin, a state the Democrats lost to the Trump campaign in 2016. He believes Colonel Jack Hastings (a well-mannered Chris Cooper), who is caught on viral video standing up for immigrants at a public townhall, is his ticket. “He looks like a Republican but sounds like a Democrat.” Gary says his intentions are pure, looking to stand up for the little guy, but we know all along his interests are self-serving. Irresistible is not the movie where the city boy goes out to the country and learns to love the farm life. Stewart decides to go another rout with his story, and without spoiling things, I’ll say the good guys win. Stewart’s cynical spin on American politics isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but there are some good laughs.
The second thing I found interesting about the film is its critical reception. Irresistible isn’t universally disliked, but it isn’t converting any new Stewart fans either. At first, this baffled me. The film is fairly likeable, and it isn’t saying anything wrong. The system is rigged! Money controls politics! The media sensationalizes everything! These ideas aren’t new, and from an objective, non-partisan perspective, could even be classified as *facts* (with whatever meaning that word has left). But after some deeper reflection, and reading what others had to say, could that be the problem? I wondered. Maybe that is why Irresistible failed to land with most audiences. The film is hardly the evisceration we’ve come to expect from Stewart, nor does it add anything to the conversation. Which begs the question, who is he pandering to? Those who’ve lived under a rock for the last few years? Or possibly, his film is meant to be a wake-up call for the apolitical chapter of America that we’re all fucked!? Because guess what people, whether you like it or not, politics are part of your life so you might as well start giving a shit about who you vote for! *Takes a deep breath* Oh, the hypocrisy. Here I am, criticizing Jon Stewart for showing up late to the party and repeating what everyone has already said, as I, one year after his film released, am doing the same thing: muttering the exact rhetoric of many critics before me. Hopefully, I’ve entertained you at some point throughout my tirade. It’s now 1:00 AM as I write this and have lost sight of who I’m upset at (maybe myself for not having gone to bed yet).
Long story short, Jon Stewart’s Irresistible is a mild comedy with little political bite. Watch the movie for Steve Carrell and Rose Byrne if nothing else.