‘Irresistible’ has thoughtful commentary woven into its laughs but fails to be remarkable

Jon Stewart beckons for the American people to reflect and revel in the absurd with his latest comedy

‘Irresistible’ has thoughtful commentary woven into its laughs but fails to be remarkable

Rose Byrne and Steve Carell entertain in roles as uppity and manipulative political elites in "Irresistible"

Credit: Daniel McFadden / Focus Features

Right from the beginning, “Irresistible” presents itself as blunt and self-aware. Its main characters share their worst qualities and make no effort to hide their outbursts or pathetic attempts at inclusivity and modesty.

Jon Stewart wrote and directed “Irresistible” using caricatures of political opposites to unveil his disdain for the state of democracy. His newest comedy has unremarkable acting performances and substantive, albeit played out, commentary.

“Irresistible” follows Democrat political consultant Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell), as he takes an interest in a small-town election and a competition with his Republican counterpart, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne). 

Zimmer’s candidate, Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), and his daughter, Diana Hastings (Mackenzie Davis), lead him through Midwestern life and politics as he bumbles about, insulting their town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin and its occupants.

Carell sticks with familiarity in “Irresistible” with his signature mannerisms, intonations and facial expressions. The role is a familiar one that he plays well, but it’s not a noteworthy performance. 

Some of this film’s funniest moments spring out of the tense and off-putting interactions between Zimmer and the residents of Deerlaken. His inability to remember names and constant, jargon-filled speeches about democracy amount to an honest depiction of how unreachable politics and politicians are to everyday people. 

Zimmer is almost likeable, despite his irritating sarcasm and uppity nature. His greatest flaw is his inability to perceive Deerlaken for what it is, and his grossest blunder is his inappropriate interest in Diana Hastings.

On the other hand, Jack Hastings is a perfectly quiet and humble foil to Zimmer’s buzzing and rambling disposition. However, Cooper’s character goes between “thoughtful small-town man” to “disassociated and lost.” He is inconsistent and often hard to figure out. For a character whose political career is the impetus for the film’s plot, he doesn’t come across as an impactful character. 

Byrne plays a soulless, cynical and manipulative member of the D.C. elite very well. She has control over her character, but this role does not make her stand out either.

The film comments explicitly on the absurdity of politics and the ins and outs of running a campaign, by simply showing these processes for what they are. 

The most entertaining scenes are those in which the viewer can point to the screen and acknowledge the truth in the film’s bizarre depictions and caricatures. The film delights in its lighter, funnier scenes, but it’s unconvincing in its attempts to add emotional depth in heavier moments. 

“Irresistible” fits an archetype of the well-known political comedy that pairs elitism and the humility of a small town; a combination destined to get some laughs. The film is neither artistic nor groundbreaking, but it is not supposed to be. 

Stewart uses the lore surrounding Middle America in this film to poke fun at the ridiculousness of politics and Washington, D.C. He makes the point that political elites are irreparably and damagingly distant from the reality of American life.

Stewart’s writing and direction tell of lost meaning in political efforts to enact change that helps people in tangible ways. He shows just how the American people cannot bear it anymore. 

“Irresistible” will be playing in theaters and available On Demand on June 26.

ggeorge@theeagleonline.com 

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