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Irresistible Movie Review

It's hard to say if Jon Stewart got out of political commentary at the right time or the wrong time. Stewart ended his run as host of The Daily Show in 2015, with Trevor Noah taking the reins, which means he just missed the Trump era. Perhaps that's a good thing for him. Stewart hasn't exactly been quiet, occasionally popping up on talk shows or testifying in front of Congress on behalf of the 9/11 first responders bill. The former host now returns to commentary with his second directorial feature, "Irresistible," a new comedy that has a lot on its mind but is rarely sure about the best way to express its ideas.
As the movie opens, the 2016 election is underway, and we all know how that story ends. Democratic strategist Gary Zimmer (Steve Carrell) is being interviewed about the night's prospects, juxtaposed with his Republican counterpart Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne, in a thinly veiled caricature of Kellyanne Conway), giving interviews for the Republican side. The movie then shifts to life after the election, and Gary is ready to get back to work. He sees a viral video of a retired Marine colonel named Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), who sparks his interest. Gary wants to groom him to run for Mayor of Deerlaken, WI, without really knowing his party. It's assumed Hastings is a Republican, but Gary is asked if he's a Democrat and responds, "Yeah. He just doesn't know it yet."

Gary flies to Deerlaken, which feels like a scene out of "The Truman Show." Everyone is friendly and knows their fellow community members by name. Gary is taken aback when he walks down the street the next morning and is greeted by name. He realizes that he is in an entirely different world coming from Washington, D.C. Once Gary meets Jack on his farm, it takes a bit of convincing for him to run for mayor, but ultimately, Jack agrees.

"Irresistible" is a bit tamer than you would expect, never really making a villain out of anyone and their party affiliation (though, Byrne's Faith is positioned as Gary's political nemesis). Stewart tries to skewer both sides of the aisle, taking aim at CNN and Fox News for their perceived image. Where the movie falters is in its overall tone - what is it really trying to say? Starting "Irresistible" with election night sets it up to show how much the country has changed post-2016, but why frame the film that way? If anything, Stewart is more interested in indicting the two-party system than harping on election outcomes.

The political antics here are occasionally funny, but some of the jokes and humor fall completely flat, feeling lifted from an entirely different comedy. Carrell is always reliable to deadpan a simple line, and his back-and-forth with Byrne is enjoyable. It would have been nice to see more of Byrne, who is one of the great and underrated comedic performers working today. She gets to rule in a few scenes, but her character could have been further expanded to create more conflict throughout. For a film about a changed political landscape, the stakes in "Irresistible" feel low.

Most of "Irresistible" falls into a fine-but-forgettable purgatory, but it collapses completely in its final moments. Revelations and reveals happen, and the action goes in a direction that doesn't result in a satisfactory conclusion to everything that came before. Stewart shows a lack of confidence in everything he gave us in the first two acts by shoehorning in these final moments. Stewart is undoubtedly an influential figure, who always has something to say, but between his first feature "Rosewater" and his latest, he has yet to find his voice as a filmmaker.
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