Political comedies can be hit or miss effort in terms of their effectiveness. Director John Stewart (previous host of the Daily Show) returns for his second feature and creates something no one could expect. “Irresistible” follows Democratic strategist Gary Zimmer (Steve Carrell), who after losing the 2016 election under Hillary Clinton’s campaign, goes to a small Conservative Midwestern town to help an ex-veteran (Chris Cooper) run for mayor. Before I go any further in this review, I want to admit that I have actually seen the film twice now. The reason I bring this up is that I really want to emphasize the cleverness this film has to offer.
When you have a cast of actors this capable, it makes this satire hit that much harder than it normally would. From Gary (Carrell), navigating small-town life, to Cooper playing this grizzly veteran, there’s a lot of humor to be taken from. The standout for me in this film would have to be actress Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids) who steals absolutely every moment she is on screen. In a comedy such as this, Byrne nails the timing of some of the more absurdist humor the trailer suggests. Two particular scenes involving her interactions with Carrell, one in a diner and another in a hotel, had me laughing the hardest I have laughed in quite some time.
At the same time those scenes don’t happen until the middle of the film. Watching this cliched “fancy man meets small-town” humor really did not work for me on any level. However, what Stewart does so well is to eliminate his audience’s expectations by the time the film is over. On initial viewing some responses such as “this is stupid!” and “this is boring!” are reactions that I would definitely not be surprised by. It’s thanks to that twist that it definitely warrants that early first act, sometimes flat, comedy. I know I'm dancing around things here, but the fun of ”Irresistible” is being surprised and going back to figure out the breadcrumbs. When a film like that makes an audience work for their entertainment, it can ruin the theatrical experience, and that’s why I feel some of these problems can’t be avoided.
The satire is sharp and our main cast shines but the supporting players just don’t get as much to do. When you have very talented actors like Mackenzie Davis (Terminator Genisys, Halt and Catch Fire), Topher Grace (That 70’s Show), Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is the New Black), you wish they could be given more than they received. All this fine group of supporting players is given is simply play two or three stereotypical written character types. Those types being the kind unsavvy city folk, or the Washington elite jerks, getting very little to do which impart is just a waste of a talented ensemble. Granted, some get a couple of very funny lines and have rather unique goals that move the story forward.
“Irresistible” has a lot going for it to warrant multiple viewings; which may be very beneficial since you can rent it for 48 hours. I just want to plead with anyone reading this to really pay attention to what John Stewart is doing here. This is a movie about people working together to achieve the best for their small town. It’s something that I see as being what audiences need to see right now. There’s a lot of charm, some flat slapstick comedy and overall great commentary on a twisted system. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a movie that’s going to win any awards. It’s a film that can make an audience laugh and think, which is something we need right now.