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IRRESISTIBLE (directed by Jon Stewart, 101 minutes, USA, 2020)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Irresistible, written and directed by ex-Daily Show darling Jon Stewart, is a scathing political satire, but it’s one with a heart, that has Stewart commenting on a post Obama world and what’s next for the Democratic party.The films delivers a hilariously hard to swallow pill: a reminder that what really matters isn’t ideologies or agendas, it’s people.

The film stars Steve Carell as Gary Zimmer, a democratic strategist/Hillary campaign survivor still reeling from 2016, who’s looking for a way into the hearts and minds of that crucial voting block the progressives left behind: the salt of the earth middle Americans of Wisconsin. Gary thinks he’s found what he’s looking for in retired Marine colonel/lifelong Republican Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) after watching a video of him in a backwater town hall meeting dropping some very Dem-friendly opinions with John-Wayne-on-a-tractor authenticity. Jack strikes a bargain with Gary, agreeing to helm his campaign for mayor if he agrees to run as a Democrat. Sensing a disturbance in the force, the Republicans send their own strategist in the guise of Faith Brewser ( Rose Byrne ) to run the campaign of Jack’s opponent. Faith consistently raises the stakes of this mayoral race and in the process brings this small Wisconsin town to the forefront of the national stage.

Stewart skillfully uses this narrative premise to draw back the curtain on some of the black magic that goes into funding and executing modern political campaigns. It’s a smart move that also helps reinforce the absurdity of the battle between two bourgeois DC strategists as they constantly up the ante, flying in more and more reinforcements in the hopes of making the race break their way. As the campaign slowly devolves into mudslinging, the film manages to pull the rug out from under the audience with an ending as rich in subtext, as it is satisfying.

Irresistible is as scathing as you’d expect from Stewart, but it’s also unexpectedly hopeful in the end. It’s not an easy balancing act in today’s nihilistic 24 hour news cycle, but blending humor and humanity has always been Stewart’s wheelhouse. Irresistible does not lay all the blame on Trump or the Republican party for the toxic shit-show of modern electoral politics, it goes after the fractured system that birthed his rise to power. Protip: be sure you watch those end credits all the way to the end.

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