Written by: Jon Stewart
Starring: Steve Carell, Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis, Natasha Lyonne, Rose Byrne
The 2016 election taught political operatives plenty about the shifts of Americans and the way they view the people they elect to these high positions. Reliable sources of information like polls failed the people who made their way of living through them and it forced people to reevaluate everything they know about the political landscape of the nation. Irresistible attempts to tackle these larger subjects but proves to be as out-of-touch as what it tries to criticize.
Following the defeat of the Democratic candidate in 2016, Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) must go back to the drawing board to see what can happen next for his party. He sees a viral video of a man in small-town Deerlaken, Wisconsin who could be exactly what the Democrats need: a man who looks conservative but espouses beliefs of the liberal party. Gary visits the man and encourages him to run for mayor, which sets things in motion as the nation begins to pay attention to the race.
Politics has entered the headspace of many for the first time in their lives following the 2016 election because of the polarizing figures running in it and people noticing the impact these politicians have with their decisions. Now, more than ever, people know what these people say and have developed anger on both sides. Jon Stewart, as savvy anyone in blending comedy and politics, sought this opportunity to make fun of the entire system and the absurd amount of money pumped into it. While certain moments work really well and punctuate his points, the condescending manner in which he lays out parts of his message indicates he needs to turn the mirror on himself to show his own participation as well.
Gary’s voyage to Deerlaken, Wisconsin appears with all of the cynicism one would expect. As someone with all of the perks of his position, heading to Deerlaken comes with the challenge of having to blend into rural America. He has a whole discussion with his assistants about what rental car he should get and how he should dress to not stick out. Instead of the typical Tesla, he gets a Ford and wears what he thinks would make him relatable to the townsfolk. This alone plays right into the message of the story as Gary shows his fraudulent nature in trying to blend in with a crowd for patronizing purposes. As much as he attempts to blend in, he sticks out right away because his behavior is part of his identity, and trying to mask it only comes off worse to people who can smell the insincerity from a mile away. Gary wants to use these people for the purposes of a national campaign to bring back voters who felt ignored by the Democratic establishment but instead of actually listening to them, he chooses manipulation and patronization.
The proceeding mayoral race turns into a circus as the Republican National Committee takes notice and sends their operative, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) who enjoys making Gary suffer. She gets behind the current mayor and the two get into a battle yet again. As the film continues, their use of these people becomes even more evident with one of those good ol’ Freudian slips Gary states. Their rivalry gets set right at the beginning with the very funny sequence where they tell reporters to their face how much every word they speak has an angle and serves as lies to manipulate the audience.
With this feature, Jon Stewart attempts to take a dig at the current political system where money continually gets pumped in for no real purpose. The technicalities involved could make your head spin when it should really be about individuals stating their beliefs and what they can do for the community. Instead, it shows what it looks like to campaign and fundraise so more campaigning can occur. All of the investment in polling and focus groups to ask people what they like about potential policies feels fake when the people involved do not really care about the impact, just what would the candidate need to possess to get the vote. The vote, in the end, is all that matters, which gets pointed out in the story with Wisconsin being a swing state.
The humor certainly works in its moments of cringe where the DC elites all take over the town in a way to drown out the actual people they want to help. It shows the clashes of the different amenities they are accustomed to versus the way the average American lives in these small towns. This divide has never been larger and it shows with these characters. Unfortunately, the film loses its bite towards the end of the film with the reveal of a specific twist, which makes sense thematically but in a narrative sense, it’s fairly idiotic. The message about campaign finance really gets hit home at that moment but the way it shifts the entire story makes no sense because it does not track with everything else occurring. Sure, this is a small town but this level of ridiculousness where no one would crack could not even happen with a group of experts.
Overall, Irresistible gets far too big for what it wants to accomplish, which makes it disappointing as a whole. Steve Carrell and Rose Byrne put in some fun performances in how they go over the top and snobby in their approach of talking to people but they get failed by the story. The stumble it takes in the third act is quite laughable and would downgrade the film even more if not for the viable messages flowing throughout the rest of it. The information espoused would have served better in a rant about the political landscape but trying to shift it into a complete feature film shows the flaws of this storytelling method and the end result seemingly proved it.