If July 6th 2021 is a day that will live in history alongside 9/11 as America on the ropes, the day after feels like the right time to stop and take stock. Irresistible is a US political comedy/satire from former tv host Jon Stewart; it would have been a cinema release last summer, but the pandemic ensured that a straight-to-streaming trajectory resulted. It’s a quaint, old-fashioned, why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along? plea for cross-party understanding, rendered antique by events since. With four dead after the Capitol was stormed by the president’s mob, cinema is left languishing with archaic ideas while today’s barbarians make the news.
2014’s Rosewater showed Stewart to be a film-maker of some talent, but his over-eagerness to straddle partisan lines falls flat here. Steve Carrell does a variation on his too-familiar harassed dad/middle-manager routine as Democratic strategist Gary Zimmer, who is lured in the mayoral race of a sleepy small town where times are hard after the closure of a military base. Zimmer throws in his lot with potential candidate Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) and his daughter Diana (Mackenzie Davis), but his rivalry with Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) escalates the campaign to new expenses and new heights. But are the people of Deerlaken, Wisconsin really on board with Zimmer’s plans? The twist ending here must have seemed smart on paper, but it renders the whole film something of a time-waster, with an absurd ‘money-solves-everything’ motif.
Irresistible is a product of Brad Pitt’s Plan B imprint; when he picked up his Oscar last year, Pitt used the moment to complain that John Bolton testimeny would be published in a commercial book rather than for presented as evidence in the Senate impeachment trial. That might seem like the quaintest of grace notes right now, but it suggests that Pitt believes with a passion that public service should take precedence over making money, and well-meant but dull projects like Irresistible are the result. Unfortunately the sell-by date of the film is remarkably short; in 2021, these coy debates about the tricky business of winning hearts and minds are diminished by seeing politicians scramble to the floor as shots are fired in the Capitol.
I left America in 2016 at the time of, and specifically due to their rise to prominence of Donald Trump; I haven’t been back since my self-imposed exile, and miss my American friends of all political persuasions. But I’ll never touch down at JFK, LAX or any airport to see a portrait of a game-show host looking down at me, and that’s for the best. Political fiction has been left gasping for relevance by the speed and ease by which the US has been unmoored by one man’s personal, self-seeking derangement; it’s time for America to return to greatness again, starting by providing leaders and politicians who will honestly serve the people that that elected them.