IRRESISTIBLE is a smart film held back by indecision about what it is trying to be. All the pieces are in place for an amazing political satire, but it can’t … quite … get there. It’s written and directed by Jon Stewart (Daily Show), who is one of the smartest, funniest people on Earth. It sports an all-star cast of funny people, including Steve Carell (40 Year Old Virgin), Topher Grace (That ’70s Show), Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids), and Natasha Lyonne (American Pie). It even has the excellent Chris Cooper (American Beauty) and Mackenzie Davis (Terminator: Dark Fate) playing largely serious roles.
Steve Carell’s Gary is a top Democratic political strategist who decides to get involved in a mayoral race in small town Wisconsin to redeem himself and find the future of the Democratic party. What holds this movie back is lack of clarity of purpose. In some ways, it strives to be a comedy (Welcome to Mooseport comes to mind). In other ways, it tries to be a sharp political satire (Primary Colors comes to mind). By trying to be both, it does neither as well as it should. While it had some funny parts, Irresistible really isn’t a funny movie. Intense awkwardness can be funny, but too much of it can get old. For a satire, it is largely unclear who the target of the satire is. Is it Washington Gary and his Republican nemesis played by Byrne? Is it the unsophisticated town people? The media?
It is also unclear who, if anyone, we are supposed to root for. Maybe that’s the point, but it makes for tough movie viewing. Carell dials up his trademark awkwardness to 11 and delivers some cringeworthy moments that deliver some laughs. Unfortunately it is unclear if he’s a goodhearted guy who is out of his element or a complete jerk. While that can be thought provoking, I think it undermines the message of the movie, particularly when it is unclear whether he is developing or remaining stagnant.
Byrne’s over the top Faith Brewster is consistently evil, but somehow she comes off as more likable than Gary. Her character delivers most of the genuine laughs in the movie. The town is filled with quirky down-home individuals, but it is too unclear if the townspeople are being nice or phony, and at times they feel kind of creepy. Cooper, who plays the candidate Gary is inspired to help is the most interesting and least annoying character in the movie. Many of the remaining characters, in particular those played by Lyonne and Grace, are simply caricatures and don’t feel particularly fleshed out.
The end of the movie delivers a twist that, while creative, is unsatisfying. It’s too cute and if you think about it too much, it doesn’t really make much sense. The final message kind of veers off from the message throughout the movie, which undercuts its effectiveness.
If it sounds like I’m being hard on IRRESISTIBLE, it is mostly because it had such potential given our political climate and the talent of those involved with it. Irresistible was an enjoyable movie and had some interesting insights and commentary about the political process. For a political movie, it seems to skewer all sides equally and there’s some interesting information given during the credits. If you are interested in the political process, this movie is likely worth a look. IRRESISTIBLE clearly has a lot to say about the political process. Perhaps it would have been better served by narrowing its scope.
IRRESISTIBLE is out now via Video-on-Demand