Along with the downsides of the various streaming services we now have available to us, there are many upsides. Yes, it can be hard to find some classics. Yes, the algorithms often dictate what is put front and centre, as well as what is being made in the never-ending quest to keep making content for people. Yes, digital censorship is something that irks me (those who know me will know how averse I am to any censorship of art). But you have that availability of a wide range of movies and TV shows, you have that convenience of so much being at your fingertips, and you can plan a whole day around an occasional binge without having to move from the sofa (with the exception of toilet breaks and any food requirements, obviously). You can also eventually decide to check out a film that had been released a while ago, without too much notable fanfare, and find yourself very pleasantly surprised by an absolute gem. That's what happened when I watched Irresistible, a film I was drawn to because of the cast, but never drawn to enough to actually seek out until it was sitting there, right in front of my eyes and just one click away from instant watchability.
After suffering a bruising defeat in the 2016 election campaign, spin doctor Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) doesn't quite know how to recover. He realises how far out of touch the Democrats were, but doesn't know how to create any kind of bridge across the widening social and political divide. That changes when he sees a viral video of Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) speaking up at a small town meeting. Hastings represents something akin to a big second chance, he's a Democrat with a strong sense of what is right, living according to his faith and the values that he held throughout his military career. He seems like a perfect candidate for the position of mayor. Although he agrees to that, and to have his campaign headed up by Zimmer, Hastings perhaps doesn't realise how quickly his small Wisconsin town will become a major political battleground. Zimmer knows how serious things are getting when his major opponent, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), arrives to help the current mayor (Brent Sexton), and everyone soon starts to become dizzy from the constant spinning.
Written and directed by Jon Stewart, a smart and funny guy I have been a fan of for some time, Irresistible is a film that plays out for most of the runtime like a very pleasant and comfortable comedy drama. It's a bit Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and a bit Wag The Dog, but the overall message delivered, overtly with the dialogue and more subtly with the various characters and atmosphere created throughout a number of scenes, is one well worth delivering, repeatedly. This is a film that appears to be critical of a certain side of the political divide, and it IS (many times), but it's also a film that pleads for people to agree that fair play, truth, and a desire to clean up the political landscape should all be achievable, and bipartisan, targets. There's also an ending that underlines just how worried we should be about the way modern elections are conducted in the USA, although the same applies to other major countries (including here in the UK).
Carell is excellent in his role, constantly moving between pleasantries and cursewords with the same smile often fixed on his face. The smile grows more and more forced as things look as if they might unravel for him, and Carell just gets funnier and sharper as he aims to keep making progress without anyone seeing how fast he is paddling beneath the surface of the water. Byrne is equal to him, playing someone who is even more determined, and seemingly less scrupulous, in a role that makes great use of her cool demeanour AND her comedy chops. Cooper is wonderfully good-hearted and optimistic about things, and Mackenzie Davis plays his daughter as someone who is, well, very much his daughter. I will keep harping on and on about Davis being long overdue the big breakout role to make her the star that I think she already is, but I'm also happy enough to see her doing great work in a film this good. Topher Grace and Natasha Lyonne are a lot of fun as people who interpret data in different ways, and hope to use that data to help Carell get Hawkins his mayoral role, and the rest of the supporting cast is made up of people who may be less familiar, but are no less suited to their roles.
The more I think about Irresistible, the more I struggle to find anything I would change about it. It does spend some time in an echo chamber, because it is often preaching to the converted, but part of the journey for Carell’s character is noticing that echo chamber, those ideological bubbles, and trying to break out. And it ultimately shows that most of us are united by common problems we could fix if we worked together, as opposed to being pitted against our neighbours by politicians who value winning ahead of effectively serving the needs of their constituents.
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|I also have no idea what they did to Mackenzie Davis for this poster image.