Released: 3rd October
Seen: 15th October
On August 6th of 2015, The Daily Show’s longest running host decided it was time to hang up his hat and retire. Jon Stewart, for many people, was a gateway drug to understanding politics with his sharp wit and no-bullshit approach, he was able to call out both sides when they needed to be called out while also being able to get both sides to open up in a way that most news anchors wish they could.
Despite his protestations that he was merely a comic, many people would consider Jon much more than that and for the last 5 years his voice has been a lot quieter than it used to be, but it’s still there. He’s used his time to fight for 9/11 first responders (A thing that apparently needed to still be fought for in 2019!) and occasionally popped up on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to remind us why he was one of the greatest political satirists we’ve ever had… and yet, for the last 5 years it’s felt like we’ve been waiting to have Jon go off on the state of modern politics and I’ll be honest, I expected him to have a lot more ammo than he seems to have turned up with.
Irresistible starts with a small town man from Deerlaken, Wisconsin named Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) making an impassioned speech at a local town meeting. This captures the eye of Democratic campaign consultant Gary Zimmer (Steve Carrell) who thinks that Jack might be the guy who could run for Mayor in Deerlaken, Wisconsin and be the first democrat mayor in years.
Jack travels down to Deerlacken and begins working on building a grassroots campaign for Gary, including an office and donors and a super PAC to help foot the bill and while he’s doing this he’s constantly bumping up against the Republican campaign consultant Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) who has been sent there to help the current mayor of Deerlaken and to just generally make Jack’s life a living hell.
Irresistible is all about the issue of money in politics, specifically the idea that a small group of rich assholes can funnel money into any race they want and how that has turned politics into a vicious free-for-all. It’s a fantastic thing to target, it’s kind of horrific that people like the Koch Brothers can just write a blank cheque and buy any politician that they desire in order to pass whatever law they want to make… except this film doesn’t actually touch that second part.
Irresistible touches on the large amount of money that’s become a standard part of the american electoral system (Yes it happens everywhere but America is the best at it) but never seems to really touch on WHY the money is being put there. It shows how the money is what the campaign advisors want most and how much is spent in a campaign (This fictional mayoral race apparently ends up costing 45 million, and that feels like a realistic number) but no one seems to call out that the money is there specifically to buy the politician themselves. There is no scene in Irresistible where the main characters are told “We’ll give you 5 million but in exchange we want you to get us a permit for this thing”, which is a huge part of the problem.
Beyond talking about the money, Irresistible pulls almost every single punch it could throw. It paints this small town as a perfectly innocent land where everyone knows each other’s names and the baker knows everyone’s coffee order and everyone just generally gets along. No one’s overtly racist or sexist, no one’s yelling about how much they love Trump (again, this is a republican town) or even seeming to acknowledge him… in 2020, you expect me to believe that? Hell, I live in Australia and even I’ve seen people driving around with Trump stickers on their car, and this town in America that voted Republican has none of that?
They don’t throw any punches towards Republicans or Democrats in the main part of Irresistible, when we’re in the small town that might as well be Mayberry. In that small town there’s no politics of any kind, sure it’s a republican town (in 2020) but no one acts any different based on their political beliefs because everyone is just so gosh darn cheery all the time. In 2020 you want me to buy that a small republican town is basically completely apolitical were it not for the two invading campaign advisors and their money? REALLY?
They literally only take shots at Democrats or Republicans when they leave the small town and are in DC and they take decent shots at both sides there, from Democrats being a little too over the top in their attempt to seem inclusive to just calling out Trump on his bullshit… these shots take up maybe 5 minutes of the film in total and are possibly the funniest moments in Irresistible because at least it showed that the people making this film have a viewpoint.
Speaking of those 5 minutes of good jokes… why are there so very few jokes here? Irresistible is a comedy, right? Why am I almost never laughing at this? The funniest character is easily Faith Brewster who is almost a cartoon villain, and she gets all the laughs. I don’t know what Carrell is doing but I’m not laughing at any of it, the townspeople barely have any jokes and the funniest moment is when a group of Nuns get sent information about how their reproductive rights will be protected… because Nuns hate that? I’m trying here, I like Jon and I like the message he’s trying to talk about but it’s just nowhere near as sharp as it should be.
The only moment when you can really see the Jon Stewart style that turned him into THE political icon of the 2000’s is during the end credits when Jon interviews Trevor Potter, the former head of the FEC where Potter explains how money in politics works. It’s a short interview, maybe 2 minutes at most but in that moment you realise that what Jon probably should’ve done was make a documentary about how money influences real world politics because that’s when he’s at his best.
When he has a real person who he can get real information out of, there’s something there. He’s not able to do that with his fictional world of Irresistible where everyone gets along and no one says a bad word (again, in 2020, we can barely get people to agree that the pandemic is a real thing and I’m sorry I’m jaded but have you seen this year?). If Jon were to just make a documentary about money in politics, it would undoubtedly be one of the best political films of the year… it’d also be political, which this film almost completely refuses to be.
Irresistible clearly has good intentions and moments where you can see it almost working as a film, but with no good jokes or punches thrown at either side it’s just so limp that it doesn’t work for anyone. It’s not great at calling out Liberals on their bullshit, definitely doesn’t even try to call out Republicans, and when it gets to the one thing that it wants to call out (money in politics), it barely even does that right. It’s almost depressing to see a man who was once so good at calling out bullshit that he managed to get Crossfire cancelled by going on the show and explaining to the hosts exactly what they were doing now being unable to properly call out something so clearly dear to his heart but it’s mostly because he tried to put it in a fictional context that doesn’t fly in 2020.