Directed by: Jon Stewart
Premise: Following the 2016 presidential election, a Democratic political strategist (Steve Carell) recruits a farmer (Chris Cooper) to run for mayor of a rural Wisconsin town. The race becomes a national story when a Republican strategist (Rose Byrne) supports the other candidate.
What Works: Irresistible is a political film in the same strain as Bulworth and Dave. This is politics as an absurdist comedy that uses a wacky scenario to illustrate something real and concerning about America’s political system. The story addresses a number of issues but its primary concern is the alienation between east coast political elites and the blue collar citizens of so-called “fly over country.” Steve Carell is a master of cringe-inducing humor and his talents are well used here. He plays a Democratic political strategist who tries and frequently fails to relate to the people of the Midwest. His artificiality is obvious, especially to the Midwestern residents, and the supporting characters react to him appropriately. As the story goes on, this alienation takes a different turn and Irresistible is about the way the political elite and the donor class condescend to the lower and middle classes. This small town mayoral race becomes a microcosm of national politics and the filmmakers effectively illustrate the comically obvious corruption of campaign financing. With the money comes the Washington D.C. political establishment who turn this local election into a nightmare of dirty campaigning and data mining. All of this builds up to a twist ending that is likely to divide audiences. It’s the right ending for the picture but it’s also unfashionably optimistic.
What Doesn’t: Viewers who are familiar with Jon Stewart’s tenure as host of The Daily Show will probably know what to expect from Irresistible in its tone and political orientation. The story hits upon many of Stewart’s political pet peeves, namely the influence of money on electoral politics. Stewart’s personal politics become a liability for Irresistible as a work of drama. Like Stewart’s Daily Show monologues, this picture spells out its point, then underlines it, and adds multiple exclamation points onto the ending. It is very didactic. The filmmaker’s compulsion to spell out the message undermines one of the film’s key points. Irresistible holds that coastal elites look down upon average citizens but Irresistible does not trust the audience to get the message. That betrays the film’s populist ambitions.
DVD extras: Deleted and extended scenes, gag reel, and featurettes.
Bottom Line: Irresistible is an effective political comedy. The movie is very obvious and the ending isn’t going to sit well with some viewers but the filmmakers successfully mix the comedy with a serious political point. The film accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well enough.
Episode: #825 (November 1, 2020)