Film Review: Irresistible (2020)

STUDIO: Focus Features | DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Jon Stewart | CAST: Steve Carell, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace, Natasha Lyonne
RELEASE DATE: June 26, 2020
SPECS: R | 101 min. | Comedy-drama

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 

Political satires are tricky. Lean too much to one side and freeze out the other. When they work, it’s a balancing act achieved by a very accomplished filmmaker.

That’s why Irresistible is such a surprise. It’s the new film written and directed by Jon Stewart, former host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.  So, it’s no great revelation that Stewart–whose 2014 directing debut Rosewater was well-received but drew little attention at the box-office–is coming at his material from an angle seriously tilted to the left. Stewart, however, deserves credit for not pulling punches when it comes to his side of the fence, as well. Absurdity and irony abound more than ever in the political arena these days, and Stewart knows it and uses it to fuel his movie.

Steve Carrell (Last Flag Flying) stars a Democratic operative from D.C. who decides to recruit an ex-Marine known as “The Colonel” (Chris Cooper, August: Osage County) to run for mayor of a small impoverished town in Wisconsin. He thinks the plain-talking, well-respected vet will boost the Dems chance to make some noise in the Midwest swing state. Before you know it, Carrell, at his Type-A neurotic best, is recruiting townsfolk for the cause, pushing “The Colonel” to go against incumbent Republican mayor of the hamlet, and meeting with powerful fundraisers in New York.

Once ensconced in the town with iffy wi-fi, overseeing a mix of locals and harried tech, marketing and polling experts, Carrell’s Republican campaign counterpart, played by Rose Byrne (Like a Boss) shows up to pump up the opposition’s campaign. Soon, longtime rivals Carrell and Byrne, a bleach-blonde Fox News anchor-babe type, are trying all types of tricks to one-up each other’s campaign—and each other—in a personal grudge match.

Despite its title, which sounds like a generic teen rom-com, Irresistible is smart, snappy and intelligent. The influences of such films as A Face in the Crowd and The Candidate are apparent, as are Local Hero and The Truman Show.

Though Irresistible is chockful of political terms and witty references to Rachel Maddow, the Koch Brothers, Super PACS, focus groups and more, there’s more than enough here to entertain even those who have already turned down the volume on the rhetoric they hear every day, months ahead of the real election in November. Stewart’s film is a winner!

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.