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Steve Carell Can’t Save Sledgehammer Satire

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Irresistible is Jon Stewart’s second feature as writer and director. A sledgehammer satire with little nuance, the film falls prey to the standard red state versus blue state characterizations. Irresistible feels like a stale retread of well-known talking points. The lines that divide us are obvious. Stewart brought incisive political discourse to late night television as host of The Daily Show. He unfortunately falls short in recreating that success on the big screen. Steve Carell and a saucy Rose Byrne offer a few good chuckles, but can’t overcome the film’s heavy approach.

Democratic political consultant Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) is despondent. It’s election day 2016. Donald Trump has just won the presidency of the United States. Zimmer watches as he’s excoriated by the national news media. An influential advisor to the Hillary Clinton campaign, he guaranteed her victory the week before. Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), a Republican operative and Zimmer’s longtime nemesis, basks in the glory of his astounding failure.

A short time later, Zimmer is stunned by a viral YouTube video. At a contentious small town meeting in Deerlaken, Wisconsin, retired Marine Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) defends the rights of the town’s illegal immigrants. The Democrats did horrendously with rural voters. Zimmer goes to Deerlaken to enlist Hastings as a candidate for mayor. He envisions Colonel Hastings as a new brand of liberal politician. Zimmer’s trip does not go unnoticed. Faith Brewster follows him to shore up the predictably conservative Republican incumbent. The national spotlight shines on Deerlaken as it becomes the frontline in America’s culture war.

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Irresistible is awash in political stereotypes. Gary Zimmer is a Washington D.C. elitist who pretends to like Budweiser and burgers to fit in with the local yokels. Faith Brewster has dyed blonde hair, wears Fox News red dresses, and lies constantly. Jack Hastings seems to be the only deviation to the formula. He breaks the mold as an older, white veteran with a left leaning value system. Instead, we get cheap theatrics and a ham-fisted resolve. Jon Stewart veers the narrative into a ridiculous plot twist. You can sense the set-up coming a mile away. The societal problems brought up by the film are simply glossed over. An opportunity was lost to find common ground between disparate people.

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Irresistible makes a definitive statement about the influence of dark money. American politics are controlled by the rich and powerful. The average person is just a pawn in their machinations, blah blah blah. That’s like saying the sky is blue and water is wet. Jon Stewart (Rosewater) breaks no new ground on inequity. His response to the money malady in the climax is incredibly dumb. Irresistible has a lot of dialogue, but nothing useful to say.

Steve Carell’s impeccable comic timing is the high point of Irresistible. He plays well off Rose Byrne’s lewd and vulgar attacks. They have good chemistry. She just needed more screen time to balance the film. Irresistible offers no insights or solutions to today’s corrosive politics. Irresistible is produced by Plan B Entertainment and Busboy Productions. It will be available to stream this Friday on demand from Focus Features.

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