REVIEW: ‘Irresistible’ is irritating

I have a lot of respect for Jon Stewart. He made me laugh on a nightly basis with his show. But wow does he get local politics wrong.

Stewart writes and directs this feature starring Steve Carell as a political strategist for the Democratic Party named Gary Zimmer. Gary works out of Washington D.C. and mainly focuses on national races. After having a successful career, though, Gary is left rather down following the election of 2016 which was disastrous for Democrats.

He gets a spark of hope, though, when he sees a viral video of a man in rural Wisconsin making an impassioned speech about protecting benefits, such as SNAP. The man, who’s also a veteran, is viewed as the perfect Democrat to win in a more rural area of the country, and Gary decides to help him win a race for the small Wisconsin town’s mayoral seat. However, this also draws the attention of the national Republican party, and it sets up a big time political match in a small town not used to the Washington tactics.

In my career as a reporter, I’ve covered races at the city and county level in four election cycles, with a fifth right around the corner. With that knowledge in hand, I can very well say that this movie does not get small town politics at all. If this was about a race for a congressional district, “Irresistible” would maybe make more sense, but making this all about a mayoral race makes the movie absolutely absurd.

Lesson No. 1, for cities the size of that featured in this movie, party affiliations are not a factor. When people run for city or county government, even if they’re involved in political parties, that is usually left out. Second of all, even if political parties were involved, people from the national level wouldn’t be needed because statewide parties manage the races at that level.

Another thing this movie gets wrong is the level of ads and polling that takes place. Races like these don’t have TV ads, but the movie shoves them in here like they’re normal. There are also several polls featured here. Most of these types of races rarely have a lot of polls.

I get that the movie shows these Washington types coming in and producing all of this for these local candidates, but it’s so nonsensical, and the movie never points out how nonsensical it is for this to be happening in this sort of race.

All of that is based on my personal experience covering municipal and county politics for nearly eight years, though. So, how does the movie stack up as just a film about big city politics influencing small governments? It doesn’t stack up well at all.

The entire crux of this movie is a big city person goes to a small town and reacts to all the things in said small town. The movie basically boils down to “man from big city isn’t used to smaller businesses, hotels without five star amenities and everybody in the community knowing each other.”

That isn’t the worst concept, “Hot Fuzz” for example knocked it out of the damn park. But, “Irresistible” just does it in such a lame, forgettable way, and there’s nothing particularly clever about it.

Courtesy Plan B Entertainment, Busboy Productions and Focus Features.

It even gets to the point where the campaign headquarters has dial up and not high speed internet. How desperate for a comedic gag can you get? Again, as someone who’s reported on the expansion of broadband internet to more rural areas, I can assure you that most city centers have high speed access, it’s the homes in rural areas away from towns that have a lack of access.

But you know what, the movie could have actually made this a campaign issue for the main candidate character, showing how behind the times the town was. Or make any small town matter an issue. Or any issue an issue. But it doesn’t.

Stewart doesn’t push any hard subject that causes real political divides here.
Instead, at the end of the day, it all boils down to there’s too much money in politics and the two party system causes too much fighting. Back in maybe 2005, this maybe would have been profound. But these days, it’s weaksauce.

It’s also noticeable how spelled out the movie is. There’s a point near the end where one of the characters says something along the lines of “the media really perpetuates all of this.” As if we needed the characters to explicitly spell it out for the audience.

All of this, every bit of it, could have been somewhat forgivable, though, had it not been for the ending. This movie offers a twist that’s absolutely stupid. Not only that, it also just smacks an audience over the head with the same message that it’s been shoving down a viewer’s throat the whole time!

It’s really unfortunate, too, because this movie had a good cast. Carell has proven himself as a guy who can do dramatic comedies, like in “The Big Short.” Rose Byrne just showed off her acting skills in the political arena in the fantastic mini-series “Mrs. America.”

Cooper, meanwhile, is an Academy Award winner with a lot of experience under his belt.
All of these performers are good and in all fairness, they’re fine on screen here, but the material doesn’t do them many favors.

I thought Stewart’s directorial debut “Rosewater” wasn’t great, but still a fairly good film. I was excited to see what he’d do next as a director after leaving the Daily Show.

However, this was clearly a sophomore slump. Stewart has ability as an entertainer. If he does direct another film, I’ll still be interested, but it will come from a place of very cautious optimism. 1 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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