No one is calling former Daily Show host Jon Stewart's dedication to politics into question here. He's proven he cares. But the overall messaging of the new film Irresistible—which Stewart wrote and directed—comes at a rather strange time in American history, and it might come across as tone deaf, or at least not particularly timely.
Steve Carell plays Gary Zimmer, a DC-based campaign big shot grappling with the fallout of Hillary Clinton's lost election, which might have been his fault. Meanwhile, in a dying town in rural Wisconsin, a veteran/farmer named Jack (the always excellent Chris Cooper) gains Gary's attention with an impassioned speech about immigration gone viral.
Wanting to reconnect with Middle America (as a potential constituency, anyway), Gary heads to the Cheese Belt, offers to run Jack's campaign and transforms the area into a political circus. His Republican counterpart Faith (a woefully underused Rose Byrne) emerges not far behind to work for the other guy—partly for similar reasons to Gary's, partly just to humiliate him, partly to add some low-stakes conflict—and soon, the nation's eyes are on the race and steadily mounting complications. Oh, also, he has a crush on Jack's daughter. Whatevs.
Had Irresistible come out a year or two ago, its tactical takedown of political spending, prejudices against small town USA and not-so-subtle jabs at Trump and big politicking might have landed with aplomb. Instead, with murderous police, COVID-19, Black Lives Matter protests, thousands sick and many more dead, it feels inconsequential. Stewart's script is smart, and Carell is as fun as ever, but we're also not learning anything we don't already know—politics sure are messed up, right? Irresistible is unlikely to change minds.
Granted, there's a twist you might not see coming that asks us to delve into our own weird notions of America and its denizens, but there's really nobody to side with. That is obviously Stewart's point, but one that seems frivolous when the question in the country has become less about how to work within the system and more about how to dismantle it.
Toss in a few comedy standby jokes and some bit parts from Natasha Lyonne and Topher Grace, and you'll forget you chuckled once or twice at this movie within the month.
+Great cast; fun twist; Trump DOES suck
-Odd timing; flat jokes; nothing special
Directed by Stewart
With Carell, Byrne and Cooper
VoD, R, 101 min.