Comedy legend Jon Stewart broke many hearts when he announced he’d be leaving the critically renowned political comedy program The Daily Show in 2015. Stewart helmed the program for 16 years providing his satirical take on politics. There has really never been anything quite like Stewart in the political world before, nor has there been since. Stewart has kept mostly low-key since his retirement, so when he announced he’d be returning to the arena of political satire as writer/director of Irresistible it turned many heads.
Irresistible follows Democratic campaign strategist Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell). After seeing a viral video of retired Marine Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) go off on his small town Republican Mayor at a town hall, Zimmer sees an opportunity to try and turn Hasting into a Democratic candidate for mayor. Although the small down-on-its-luck town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin doesn’t seem like it should matter to the Washington political machine, Zimmer sees an opportunity to try and rebrand the Democrat image in the rural Midwest. His efforts don’t go unnoticed, as his political foil and nemesis Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) is sent to campaign hard on behalf of the incumbent mayor. What follows is a quaint fish-out-of-water story told on two fronts as Washington politico Zimmer tries to relate to small town life and Hasting tries to acclimate himself to the bizarre world of politics.
Once again working alongside the man who launched his career, Stewart plays right to Steve Carell’s strengths as a comedic actor no doubt writing this role with him in mind. Rose Byrne’s portrayal of Faith Brewster’s conniving yet flirty relationship with Zimmer is the other standout of the film. The banter between the two is clever and funny, although it would have been nice to see her character developed a bit further.
Much of Irresistible plays like a standard underdog story. It plays to certain conventions, which at times make it feel like this film will be predictable. Despite Zimmer seemingly filling the role of protagonist, there is an elitist nature about him that he never quite shakes. Along with his callous acceptance of political realities this keeps him from ever being completely likable. His interactions with Hasting’s good-natured, politically naive daughter Diane (Mackenzie Davis) seem to lay the groundwork of a redemption narrative, but there’s always something a little off putting to that as well.
Ultimately, there is a method to these oddities as much of the conventional groundwork is thrown aside for a surprising twist ending. The twist works towards advancing the greater message of the film, and in that regard it’s very satisfying. However, those invested in the characters may feel cheated by it since, narratively, it’s not very believable. At the end of the day, more so than a fish-out-of-water or an underdog story, Irresistible is a satire of the American electoral system. Too true to life to be parody, the idea is to shine a critically comedic light on this circus that we’ve come to accept as reality.
Being Jon Stewart’s first return to political comedy in five years, Irresistible had some extremely large shoes to fill. For those expecting Stewart to return with a loud and fiery boom, this may disappoint. Irresistible isn’t meant to rattle the establishment or drop a bombshell in an election year; instead it’s a quiet and quirky reminder of the absurdity of the system. Irresistible is a funny and unique film in its own right, just as long as you don’t let the return of Stewart cast too big a shadow over your expectations for it.
Synopsis: After a video of retired colonel Jack Hastings sticking it to a small town mayor goes viral, Washington politico Gary Zimmer travels to the small town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin with hopes of making him the new face of the Democratic Party.
Director: Jon Stewart
Writer: Jon Stewart
Stars: Steve Carell, Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace, Natasha Lyonne, Rose Byrne
Run time: 1 Hour, 41 Minutes