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Columns Eleanor Ringel Cater

‘Irresistible’ – Jon Stewart directs smart political satire

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By Eleanor Ringel Cater

Oh, how we’ve missed you Jon Stewart.

Thankfully, he’s back with “Irresistible,” a cheerfully subversive bit of political satire that’s almost impossible to write about without giving the game away.

I’ll do my best, but I have to say a little something. This is a Preston Sturges movie posing as a Frank Capra film. And if that’s too “movie-insider” for you, try it this way. The picture is set in “Rural America, Heartland USA,” aka, the tiny, boarded-up town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin (aka, Rockmart, Georgia).

A scene from “Irresistible”

Just be aware: what appears to be Jimmy Stewart’s old stomping ground, Bedford Falls, may actually occupy an area code closer to Jim Carrey’s sunny-side-up seaside resort in “The Truman Show.”

Stewart’s (Jon) old partner-in-political-satire, Steve Carell, stars as Gary Zimmer, described by the media as “a grand old sigliore” of the Clinton (Hilary) campaign. Which, as “Irresistible” opens, is another way of saying he’s a loser and out of a job.

But then he happens to catch a YouTube clip that’s gone viral. In it, a retired Marine, Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) – Republican, widower, farmer – turns up at a town hall meeting and eloquently stands up for the rights of immigrants. He truly is a Capra hero come to life and in him, Gary sees a chance to test the Rust Belt waters for 2020. “He’s a Democrat,” he tells his inside-the-Beltway regulars. “He just doesn’t know it yet.”

But Gary is about to tell him. And he’s going to swoop into Deerlaken – data experts and Big Political Connections a-blazing – and run the Colonel for mayor. Luckily, the, um, rubes (we’re talking a place with both a Big Mike and a Little Mike) seem ready to help. Even more luckily, there’s a very attractive farmer’s daughter, Diana (Mackenzie Davis), who believes in her dad and actually seems politically savvy enough to help spearhead the campaign.

Things take off from there. Gary’s opposite number, a sleek GOP blonde named Faith (Rose Byrne), turns up to get out the vote for the Republican incumbent. Gary flies Jack in a private plane to Manhattan for an Upper West Side fundraiser worthy of Tom Wolfe. An ad for the Colonel shows him firing a machine gun into a river and turning to the camera to say – what else? – “I’m Colonel Jack Hastings and I approve this message.”

It’s politics as usual but with a particularly satisfying twist (well, for those of us in fly-over country) that you may or may not see coming. And you may or may not like.

But no matter. I think you will like the cast – especially Carell, Cooper and Davis. And I think you’ll like the humor. At one point, Gary describes Col. Jack as “Bill Clinton with impulse control or a church-going Bernie Sanders with better bone density.”

I know I liked “Irresistible” so much that I’m going to watch it again – just to see how well I was played. Or better yet, how well it plays.

“Irresistible” is available for streaming on Amazon, Vudu and other rental services.

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Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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