Irresistible | Jon Stewart | June 26, 2020

Jon Stewart makes his return to the director’s chair (following his 2014 debut Rosewater) for his second feature film, Irresistible, a timely look at today’s, uh, disturbing, political climate. If there’s one voice that we’ve been desperately missing during the hellscape that has been the Donald Trump administration, it’s Stewart’s. So the prospect of him getting back to his old stomping ground in cinematic form was an exciting prospect.

Stewart, who also penned the screenplay, gives the keys to this vehicle to his old The Daily Show pal Steve Carell, who stars as Gary Zimmer, a skilled political consultant who has worked his magic for plenty of great Democratic campaigns. He’s distraught after failing to defeat Trump in 2016 and tries to rebound with a new prospect in a retired Marine colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) in the small town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin. Zimmer becomes inspired by Hastings’ passionate plea to members of his town hall and sees him as a possible mayoral candidate in this red-leaning town as a way to help swing some voters blue.

Zimmer is greeted warmly by the humble townsfolk but the same can’t be said by his political rival and ex-flame Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), who the Republican National Committee sends to help shore up the campaign of Hastings’ opponent, the incumbent Mayor Braun (Brent Sexton). What starts out as a way to turn the tide in a red state for the good of the party and nation becomes more of a petty battle of one-upping one another, done in a comedic fashion that’s perfectly geared towards Stewart’s sensibilities.

While Irresistible’s timing is perfect with the tense political climate that sees us more divided than ever during a crucial election year, the film doesn’t land its punches in the pointed fashion that you come to expect from such a brilliant political mind such as Stewart. The film has its heart and mind in the right place, though, with some hard-to-deny commentary about the absurdity of both parties, the way money shapes our politics, and the media’s impact.

When the somewhat unlikable Zimmer arrives in this town, the residents don’t like his condescending tone. The irony is that Stewart’s screenplay, unfortunately, feels a bit condescending to his audience, even if you can sense his heart is truly in the right place. Themes come off a bit too heavy-handed and don’t quite find the right balance between satirical wit and humor, often finding a weird awkward middle-ground that never delivers upon its promise.

On paper Carell seems like the right guy for such a role but he never quite felt authentic here, feeling more like an idea than a character. The heart of the film comes from the performance of the always terrific Chris Cooper, who feels completely authentic and well-drawn. The same can be said about Mackenzie Davis (Terminator: Dark Fate) as his daughter Diana who is a silent driving force of her father’s campaign. There are also some funny scene-stealing comedic moments from Rose Byrne, who plays off Carell quite well.

There are fragments of the pointed political commentary that Stewart is trying to make here and all the signs are pointed in an obvious fashion. The film may deliver a few surprises in the end but it just doesn’t feel all that authentic or as clever as intended. It’s not consistently funny or heartfelt enough that allows it to really find its rhythm, to the point where some surprises in the final act landed without the impact that is so clearly intended.

Instead, the best part of the film arrives during a mid-credits scene with Stewart actually interviewing someone in the political landscape. I will say no more as to spoil it, but it’s the sort of moment that reminds you of why Stewart is the right man to take us all to task for the current political situation that we are stuck in. It’s just a shame that Irresistible lacks that same passionate and thunderous feeling that we’re used to him delivering.

Rating: 5.4/10


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