Written and directed by Jon Stewart, the unique comedy/drama Irresistible focuses on a small, largely conservative town in Wisconsin called Deerlaken where a Democratic political expert Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) develops a local farmer/retired Marine Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) into a mayoral candidate.
Jack’s daughter Diana (Mackenzie Davis), a seemingly reluctant participant in this new political circus, shows genuine care throughout this unique transformation. “This system, the way we elect people, it’s terrifying. And exhausting. And I think it’s driving us all insane,” says Diana. Davis (Terminator: Dark Fate, Tully, Black Mirror). She provides an important perspective as filmmakers work toward a realistic, original resolution. The endearing townspeople, including incumbent Mayor Braun (Brent Sexton), provide even more genuine appeal.
Gary’s team members include Kurt Farlander (Topher Grace) and Tina De Tessant (Natasha Lyonne). Debra Messing makes a beginning impression as Babs Garnett, but unfortunately does not get enough screen time for a lasting one. Lyonne (Russian Doll, Orange is the New Black, Slums of Beverly Hills) makes a great impression as Tina, even in her miscues, and definitely could have boosted the film with a bigger role.
Republican political expert Faith Brewster (Rose Bryne) creates a memorable rivalry with Gary and everything/everyone associate with him. Bryne (Bridesmaids, Neighbors, Damages) enhances the plot well with her comedic timing, well-varied attacks, and biting persona where Faith appears at expected times …much to the audience’s delight. Faith summarizes her rivalry with Diana in just one line – “I bet she smells like Pop-Tarts.”
Carell and Cooper definitely exercise their talents. Carell establishes Gary as a person who has difficulty relating to others, but really knows his stuff and shows his true colors when he’s in his political element. Gary is relatable … when someone is used to telling other people who they are (and vice versa – others telling you) then it’s hard to be yourself. Then Carell pulls a Dr. Jeykl / Mr. Hyde-like duality when he downshifts into demeaning, condescending behavior, especially during a sequence when he’s “apologizing” to his staff, which includes local volunteers.
Carell definitely pulls of this role as Cooper does with his seemingly down-to-earth, tell-it-like-it-is candidate who shakes up the establishment, much to Gary’s delight. “I’m not gonna lie to them,” Jack reasserts himself as the political machine threatens the townsfolk.
The filmmaker’s style and basic plot logistics offer some clues to nice surprises and occasional bewilder as well. For example, the audience expects the predictable wordplay using Jack’s name in the political ads, but why is he shooting an automatic weapon in the water and why does an opposing campaign ad show boarded up buildings in the background as they’re touting their incredible record in community development.
Overall, Stewart’s plot is educational, insightful, and perfectly paced. It doesn’t rely on constant zingers and takes the time to develop strong characters. The ending credit sequences resolve issues perfectly …in several ways plus Stewart adds a perfect interview coda with Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission.
Stewart also produces this recommended film (*** out of four stars) from Focus Features with Lila Yacoub and Plan B Entertainment’s Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner plus Brad Pitt as an executive producer. Rated R for language including sexual references. Partially inspired by a 2017 special House of Representatives election in the 6th Congressional district in Georgia where Democratic and Republican parties sank over $55 million USD into the respective campaigns. Check out the gag reel on the home video version …it would have been great to see all the in-between sessions where Carell and Stewart entertained the cast and crew.