Jon Stewart’s ‘Irresistible’ might bring the country together, but it won’t make them laugh

Irresistible (2020)

Directed by Jon Stewart

After Jon Stewart’s directorial debut, “Rosewater”—about an Iranian journalist who was captured and tortured in Iran—was met with a mediocre reception in 2014, I was happy to see that his next film would take him back to his roots. “Irresistible” strikes a markedly different tone from “Rosewater,” while still focusing on Stewart’s political interests. While “Rosewater” was very much a movie of its time, “Irresistible” felt like it could have been made during the Bush administration. It doesn’t meet the moment, like we expect political comedies to nowadays—it’s less “The Big Short,” more “Welcome to Mooseport.”

After the 2016 election, political consultant Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) knows as well as anybody that Democrats need a win. He’s so desperate for a morale boost, he decides his next client will be Colonel Jim Hastings (Chris Cooper), a sixty-year-old farmer and Marine whose speech at a rural Wisconsin city council meeting went viral. Zimmer wants to make him mayor in a Republican stronghold, regardless of how little it might mean for national politics. When a major Republican strategist (Rose Byrne)—Zimmer’s rival—finds out about the race, she goes to Wisconsin to help reelect the incumbent, just for spite.

“Irresistible” only works if you ignore the major flaw in its political logic—that somehow, any mayoral race outside of NYC, LA, or Chicago could affect much of anything on a broader scale. Surely, you think, Steve Carell’s character must have had tons more important things to do during the 2018 election cycle than help out a small-town mayoral candidate he saw in a YouTube video. This is what sets “Irresistible” apart from every other political comedy you’ve seen in the past five years. While it certainly speaks to our current political landscape, it also doesn’t make it its main goal to educate or sway you. It wants to be laughed at and then forgotten. That’s not to say “Irresistible” won’t make you think. There is a message at its core, about the priorities of national politics and how much or little they really care about everyday Americans. But this isn’t “The Daily Show,” and I think “Irresistible” was made to cross party lines.

Steve Carell doing his best Josh Lyman impression made me think Jon Stewart could have just asked Bradley Whitford if he was up for reprising his “West Wing” character. Maybe nobody can match Carell’s goofy charm, though. Not surprisingly, Chris Cooper pulls off his character well. If the part wasn’t written for him, you could’ve fooled me. The movie’s strongest scene might have been the viral video that put Hastings on Zimmer’s radar. Cooper speaks not just to Democrats, but to reasonable Americans who want politicians to do the right thing. It strikes a tone for the whole movie. “Irresistible” plays it safer than you might expect from Jon Stewart, though. He made a political movie that won’t piss off an entire half of the country—when are we going to see a movie like that again?


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