Irresistible

Gary still hasn‘t got over the failed election campaign that he ran in 2016 for Hillary Clinton. But things may be looking up. One of his minions has found him a youtube clip which has just gone viral. It’s a town hall meeting in Wisconsin where former army colonel turned farmer Jack Hastings is speaking up for the rights of migrants who have been denied food stamps.

Like most Democrat spin doctors, Gary is an East Coast liberal who has nothing but contempt for farmers (though he’s pretty in awe of former colonels). But he’s aware that no-one in Wisconsin would listen to someone like him, so he needs to find an election candidate who looks like them but can act as his cypher. The Jack for Mayor campaign has just begun. If you’ve seen the overlong trailer, you’ll already have a fair idea what this means.

Soon enough, Faith is also in town. Faith has a similar job to Gary’s but for the other side. There also seems to be some sort of on-off sexual attraction going on, whenever Gary is not making gooey eyes at Jack’s daughter. Like Gary, Faith is rich and privileged and has zero understanding of the Wisconsin voters. But for better or worse, their respective parties think that they’re the best people for their jobs.

I had been looking forward to this film. Jon Stewart may have made the odd misstep, but he was reliably funny as host and one of the writers of the Daily Show. And Steve Carrell’s always worth watching, isn’t he? I wasn’t even put off by hearing that some Democrats didn’t like the film as it portrayed them as being just as bad as the Republicans. That’s not too far from the truth, after all.

And yet for all my anticipation, this film is truly dreadful. Slow paced, stretching our credulity, it shares Gary’s contempt for anyone on a lower salary bracket than him. You could object that there is one or other scene where he is also held up to ridicule, but – partly because he’s played by that nice guy from the Office – his arrogant disdain for those he sees as his inferiors is passed off as one of his silly foibles.

The film has a faux radicalism which complains that the system is broken and yet accepts pretty much every one of that system’s rules. I bet it will be loved by those journalists who complained for years that all politicians were the same self-serving egoists, but when Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn came onto the scene did all in their power to prevent someone from outside the system getting in. Similarly those who believe that the way to win over Brexit voters is to call them all idiots.

Shortly before the end there is a superb twist in the tail, which we can’t discuss here without raising serious plot spoilers. Yet even that is as annoying as it is satisfying. Did we have to sit through an hour and a half of bland smugness just to feed that one piece of commentary? The whole thing would have served better as a 3 minute sketch, and would not lost any of its power.

The film reminds me of that Gary Larson cartoon which starts with a herd of cows in a field all on their hind legs having a chat. Suddenly one of them shouts “Car!” and they go onto all fours to eat grass. The car goes past and they return to their hind legs. In a similar way, Irresistible finds it hilarious when working class people talk with eloquence and knowledge or when women initiate a discussion about oral sex. Because its ridiculous to think that chavs have thoughts or women have desires, right?

You get the feeling that Jon Stewart is ultimately satirising himself. Gary is too close to his author to be depicted as being truly evil. But it is simply not possible to portray Gary as loveable when he’s so clearly lacking in empathy. The fact that no-one takes him up on this only goes to show that they contain a basic human dignity that he is unable to understand.

But the biggest problem with the film is its misunderstanding of how politics works. Towards the end it complains at the way that politics is portrayed as left versus right whereas we’re much closer to each other than any of us would like to think. I call bullshit. Stewart is appalled by the political establishment but can’t quite accept that he’s become part of that establishment. Which is why his attacks are just too blunt, his villains just too inoffensive.

A wasted opportunity by someone who really should know better.

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