Irresistible has all the elements to be a wonderful political comedy. From writer-director, Jon Stewart, to a stacked cast featuring Steve Carell, Rose Byrne, and Chris Cooper, it sets itself to take on election year by calling out the ills of the political economy and parties, but it’s also a heartfelt story of a small American town ala Swing Vote.
In Irresistible, Gary (Carell) is a Democratic National Committee’s top political strategist. He works the campaign for a retired veteran’s bid for mayor of a small right-wing Wisconsin town in hopes of turning it blue in the lead up to the incoming presidential election. After he sees a video of a retired Marine colonel (Cooper) standing up for the rights of his town’s undocumented workers, Gary believes he has found the key to winning back the Heartland. However, the Republican National Committee counters him by sending in his nemesis Faith (Byrne) which turns the race into a fundraising battle with each campaign using absurd measures to win.
A political comedy is something that could be the best salve for these terrifying political times. I expected Irresistible to be that moment of satire to heal my dejected soul, but instead, it winds up somewhere in the middle of the road despite stellar performances from Rose Byrne and Steve Carell. While the segments of satire are stellar when showcases CNN and FOX newscasts, the rest of the satire doesn’t hit nearly as hard as fans of Stewart would expect it to. The film is obviously meant to talk to white voters, but it doesn’t decide to really take a stand for any clear side of political discussions, which is out of character for Stewart’s comedy. It’s this approach to the moderates in the audience that causes much of what would be sharp and witty to turn into dull and in some parts offensive.
Truly, the satire in Irresistible pulls punches and not with a purpose. Instead, it seems as if this film with an all-white main cast and made for white audiences can’t decide if it’s going to hit hard or coddle those watching. In one moment, the film will present a damning look at conservative views and in the next the same for liberal ones. But as I said at the beginning of this review, there are elements of a solid political comedy. The film’s larger themes and its ability to make truly unlikable characters undeniably engaging – although this may be on the strength of Carell and Byrne’s performances – are reasons to hit play on this title when it hits VoD.
Irresistible’s themes about political parties lying, manufacturing the perfect candidate, and the many racial and gendered biases that go into doing so are wonderful. Additionally, the film is able to showcase disparities from urban and rural life in a way that avoids nonsensical stereotypes for the most part. But where it loses itself is when these pieces that can propel the satire to the top are left by the wayside for a more heartfelt story that is too much like movies of the past namely Swing Vote. While the heartwarming twist to the film that comes at its climax is presented as a subversion of the politics it ends up falling flat and knocking out any wind that Stewart had in his comedic and satirical sails.
Overall, Irresistible isn’t bad but isn’t quite good. It’s a middle-of-the-road film in comedy, politics, and narrative. With all the parts that should make this a standout, fans of Carell’s character work will be excited but those expecting a Daily Show bite will be disappointed.
Irresistible will be available on VoD June 26th, 2020.
Overall,Â IrresistibleÂ isn’t bad but isn’t quite good. It’s a middle-of-the-road film in comedy, politics, and narrative. With all the parts that should make this a standout, fans of Carell’s character work will be excited but those expecting a Daily Show bite will be disappointed.