By Lynn Venhaus
Sharp as a tack and a needed gut punch, “Irresistible” is a savage political satire that aims at both major political parties and the media. It is a wake-up call about how money-influenced political campaigns are run these days and how crazy it all is. And if you are cynical, writer-director Jon Stewart explains why.
The story centers on a Democratic political consultant who helps a retired Marine colonel run for mayor in a small Wisconsin town, and soon the national spotlight is on rural Deerlaken, for its ‘authenticity.’
It might not sound entertaining, and the big city slickers coming to small-town America is a well-worn trope, but “Irresistible” is clever and for the most part, amusing. It zips along, contrasting caring, connected life in rural America with the go-go-go sophistication of New York as a media and liberal center, and the cutthroat political scene in Washington D.C.
The performances are first-rate. Former Daily Show correspondent Steve Carell is in his wheelhouse as Gary Zimmer, a driven Democratic strategist who puts all his muscle and know-how into winning elections. His new pet project is more about his redemption and finding someone who can take the next step to the national arena.
Oscar winner Chris Cooper, the Kansas City-born actor who consistently depicts integrity, is perfect as Jack Hastings, a widower and retired Marine, who has the right demeanor for electability and the wisdom to size up what’s happening in this super-charged environment. No fool, he knows how he is being presented as a candidate, and, used. Cooper, who majored in acting and agriculture at University of Missouri-Columbia, embodies the role with a genuine gravitas.
As his grown daughter Diana, Mackenzie Davis, last seen in “Terminator: Dark Fate,” is another high mark, conveying her concerns regarding her dad, being protective and wary of the spectacle.
Acting as Gary’s archrival Faith Brewster, Rose Byrne’s GOP political operative is abrasive and crude, and in that regard, annoying. Of course, that’s the point, but ick.
The supporting cast is having fun – including Topher Grace and Natasha Lyonne as slick national pollsters, Will Sasso and Will McLaughlin as the “Two Mikes,” Brent Sexton as Mayor Braun and Blair Sams as the local baker Ann.
During this election year in the middle of the pandemic, people may have developed fatigue about the news and how campaigns are covered, but this is on the mark. It bites and stings, as evidenced by the talking heads and the insatiable need to make predictions and blow things out of proportion.
Stewart, who spent 16 years on “The Daily Show,” knows his material and personalities, and treats the small-town hicks with respect, while depicting the easy way they are patronized.
While the barbs don’t always land well, and the sarcasm can get tedious, “Irresistible” presents a case for campaign finance reform. And you might just crave some warm, fresh-baked streusel coffeecake. Required viewing is all the way through the credits.
“Irresistible” is a contemporary comedy-drama directed by Jon Stewart, and starring Steve Carell, Chris Cooper, Rose Byrne, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace and Natasha Lyonne. Run time is: 1 hr. 41 min. and rated R for language including sexual references. Lynn’s Grade: B+. Available on Video on Demand June 26.
A version of this review appeared in the Webster-Kirkwood Times
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.