Jon Stewart’s ‘Irresistible’ Skewers Political Failings but Doesn’t Stick the Landing
One Democratic consultant’s quest to win over hearts and minds in America’s Heartland is at the center of “Irresistible,” a political satire written and directed by Jon Stewart. Steve Carell plays the consultant, Gary Zimmer, who is first introduced reeling from the 2016 presidential election and the loss of his boss, Hillary Clinton, who famously neglected to visit certain midwest cities during the final stretch of her campaign. With 2020 in mind, Zimmer heads to one of these states, Wisconsin, to intervene in a small-town mayoral race, using his chosen candidate, Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), either as a pawn or as a special chosen one, depending on how one looks at it.
Jack first comes to Gary’s attention after a young staffer at his firm, Evan (Alan Aisenberg), shows him a YouTube video of the farmer and military hero at a city council meeting in his fictitious town of Deerlaken. In the clip, he takes a stand against the Republican mayor, Braun (Brent Sexton), and a law that prevents undocumented workers in the community from receiving benefits. With his credentials, liberal mindset and unwavering faith, Gary sees Jack as being the perfect type of candidate the Democrats need to flip red states, and without going into much detail about his long game, Gary flies out to Wisconsin to convince him to run against Braun.
Predictably, Jack is hesitant when Gary comes knocking at his door, but he does come around to the idea of running, and Gary wastes no time into turning a local cafe into campaign headquarters, something that is not easy in a town where WiFi is still a novelty. Amazingly enough, the Deerlaken mayoral race becomes national news, and it’s not long before Gary’s rival, Republican consultant Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), comes to town to offer her services to Braun.
With her dyed blonde locks, fashionable clothes, and penchant for “alternate facts,” Faith is certainly believable as a Republican spokeswoman. But that’s not to say that Stewart thinks Democrats are not without their flaws, as Gary makes it clear early on that his job is to essentially spin the truth. Once Faith arrives, the film takes on a bit of a screwball feel as she and Gary have some fun interplay together.
The ensemble cast also includes Mackenzie Davis as Diana, Jack’s quiet and intelligent daughter on whom Gary develops a crush. Then there’s Natasha Lyonne as Tina, an analytics expert, and Topher Grace as Kurt, a pollster. Although both of the latter characters are pretty one-note, it is interesting to see the differences between their two different processes when it comes to studying voters.
Much humor in “Irresistible” comes from how small of a town Deerlaken is. While Stewart avoids making the locals objects of ridicule, he does rely on one too many small-town clichés. Still, the focus remains on satirizing the American political system. In one memorable scene, Gary trots Jack out in front of some big shot New York donors, only to have him tell them how ridiculous it is for him to have to come to them, hat in hand, in order to enact any real change in his small town. In the end, millions of dollars end up being raised by both campaigns, making a point on how much is poured into advertising that could probably be put to better use.
Although he is definitely biased towards the left side, Stewart does a fine job of making fun of those on both sides of the political spectrum, playing around with what it means to be both a Democrat and Republican. He also flips some common movie tropes, such as the idea that a 28-year-old woman like Diana makes a suitable love interest for middle-aged Gary.
While Stewart makes some fine points about the failing of the U.S. political system, ultimately, he plays it safe, and doesn’t go far in his skewering of any political ideology or institution. All of the maneuvering on both sides culminates into a slightly amusing, albeit contrived twist ending, complete with a ham-fisted message about underestimating “simple” folks.
“Irresistible” releases June 26 on VOD.