“Irresistible,” one of the first post-quarantine films of the year, is an unconventional rom-com disguised as a political movie — or vice versa.
Former late-night talk show host Jon Stewart wrote and directed this film, starring his buddy Steve Carell. Carell plays Gary Zimmer, a disillusioned Democratic political adviser out to restore the party to glory following the election of Donald Trump. He’s doing it from the ground up, running the mayoral campaign of a Republican-turned-Democrat in a small Wisconsin town and hoping it will spark a national resurgence.
After an exchange at a city council meeting between farmer Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) and the pig-headed Republican Mayor Braun (Brent Sexton) goes viral, Zimmer sees the battle as a model for political strife in the country. He reasons if he can win in Wisconsin, the nation’s heartland, he feels he could turn back the Republican tide in 2020.
Of course, there are women in the picture. Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) is Zimmer’s seductive Republican counterpart who takes the other side in the tiny election just to torment Zimmer. Or is there an ulterior motive at work?
Topher Grace is weirdly cast as one of two redneck brothers, and Debra Messing makes the most out of a small role.
The actors are all perfect, but the standout is the beautiful Mackenzie Davis as the Democratic candidate’s seemingly unspoiled daughter. Davis, who has often played icy (or downright cruel) women as in television’s “Halt and Catch Fire” and movies such as “Terminator: Dark Fate,” gets to portray a smart and sexy woman.
Stewart wears his politics on his sleeve, but he keeps his beliefs in check for this film. There is no real effort to make the Republicans the bad guys and the Democrats the good ones, it’s more of a contest of equals, almost a sport.
The writing is sharp and clever and delivers an unexpected — and thoroughly entertaining — ending that actually appeals to everyone, regardless of political party.
Carell carries the film as the brilliant strategist, with a little bit of the manic Carell seen in almost everything else he has done. But the real star of this film is the self-aware writing by Stewart. And at the end there is a scene between Davis and Carell that is pure Stewart, and will be an eye-opener for any man over 40, not necessarily one he’ll enjoy.
Be sure to watch the credits for a surprising interview about how this crazy movie plot could actually work in real life, which proves the old saying, you can’t make this stuff up.
Michael Sangiacomo is a freelance writer from South Amherst.