A brilliant payoff can’t quite make up for an uneven buildup in Jon Stewart’s Irresistible.
Essentially a feature-length extension of his “The Daily Show” schtick, the writer/director’s first film since his 2014 thriller Rosewater is packed with biting political humor and witty commentary on the Washington elite.
The conduit for this quasi-satirical attack is Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell), a Democratic strategist still reeling from the 2016 presidential election, who thinks he’s found his ticket to redemption after a video of Col. Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) championing core American values at a Deerlaken, Wis., community meeting goes viral.
In town to recruit Jack to run for mayor, Gary’s condescending attempts to fit in elicit decent chuckles at the expense of his cluelessness, but his faux sincerity doesn’t escape Deerlaken’s nevertheless welcoming residents.
Gary’s efforts soon attract the attention of his caustic rival — and sometimes lover — Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), who swoops in to back the conservative incumbent, Mayor Braun (Brent Sexton, Flightplan), turning this tiny election in the middle of nowhere into a fairly amusing arms race.
While the jokes at campaign headquarters land somewhat inconsistently, they’re far more successful than Stewart’s attempts at character development, particularly anything involving Jack’s daughter Diane (Mackenzie Davis). Though Stewart never lingers on the human interest side long enough to sink the film, the more outlandish and flat-out fantastic the political gag — especially Gary and Faith telling reporters in their respective spin rooms that they’re lying to them — the better.
On the road to election day, Stewart has fun setting up Republicans as ridiculous straw-man villains but is just as hard on the Democrats and the ends they go to win, suggesting a thoroughly broken political system.
While that revelation may not exactly be shocking, its generally funny packaging in Irresistible has the potential to start conversations that otherwise might go unspoken, especially during this current time of great unrest.
Available to rent via Amazon Video, Apple and other streaming services