Tag Archives: jon stewart

‘Irresistible’ Review

In case you didn’t have enough politics in your daily life, here comes Jon Stewart with a movie about it.

“Irresistible” stars Steve Carell as a top-Democratic strategist who takes interest in a small right-wing Wisconsin town’s mayoral race. Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace, Natasha Lyonne, and Rose Byrne also star as Jon Stewart writes and directs.

It goes without saying, but it’s hard to avoid politics in our modern lives. When you’re not watching the news you’re on Twitter or Facebook, either reading articles that take place in your echo chamber or seeing contrasting views from that old friend you went to high school with pop up on your feed. It’s become a lot for many people to handle, so the idea of watching an entire film that revolves around red-vs-blue may not exactly be the idea of entertainment. And while Stewart’s second directorial outing has some interesting and entertaining takes on our current political climate, it isn’t sharp, funny, or consistent enough to be worthy of a recommendation.

I’ll start with the cast, as they all are solid. Led by quirky and bubbly as usual Steve Carell, and with supporting work from the likes of Will Sasso and Chris Cooper, the characters in this film make the setting feel lived-in and genuine with small town charm, while Carell and Rose Byrne pass as the out-of-touch big city pundits who pander and spew BS for a living.

After spending years running “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart is no stranger to politics. He has even spoken on Capital Hill and called out elected officials, so it makes sense that he would want to make a film that satirizes our increasingly corrupt (but also parody-friendly) political system. And there are more than a few good jokes and bits of commentary here (there is one quick shot of an NRA information booth shutting down when they get approached by an inquisitive group of Black Lives Matter activists that had me chuckling hard). However, for every one of those bits that works, there is an off-putting, tone-deaf, and/or tonally jarring attempt at humor that just does not land at all (Byrne licks pasty crumbs off Carell’s face and I was deadpan staring at the screen).

Stewart clearly watched “The Big Short” and “Vice” in back-to-back viewings, taking inspiration for some on-the-nose analogies and a few cutaways to B-roll footage. Just like Adam McKay, Stewart isn’t shy about which way his politics (and ipso facto, his film) lean, and his message at the end is admirable but somewhat shallow.

“Irresistible” is fine, and if it didn’t have one or two completely random sequences then I would say it may be worth checking out. But it doesn’t really say anything most Americans don’t already know and agree upon (there’s too much big money in politics, the mainstream media is a joke, the flyover states feel disenfranchised), and the comedy isn’t any better than what you can find for free on YouTube. Fans of Carell or Stewart may get their kicks, but the rest of us are better off sitting this race out.

Critics Rating: 5/10

Stewart’s Humor, Satire Shine Through in ‘Rosewater’

Rosewater_poster            A comedian taking on a serious film seems to be the trend this year. Michael Keaton and Steve Carrell are getting Oscar buzz for their roles in dramas “Birdman” and “Foxcatcher”, respectively, and now Jon Stewart temporarily trades in his Daily Show desk for a director’s chair with “Rosewater”.

Based on the true story, “Rosewater” tells the tale of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari (played by Gael García Bernal) who was detained and tortured for 118 days in Iran during the 2009 presidential election. Jon Stewart produces, writes the script (based on Bahari’s novel) and directs his first major motion picture.

In a lot of ways, “Rosewater” is like “Argo”. Obvious Iran setting aside, the film, despite taking place in the past, holds a lot of views and opinions about current events. There are also some moments of black humor to ease up the serious moments, and nice integration of stock footage. However there are also a lot of reasons why “Rosewater” is not the next “Argo”.

Despite maybe not being the most obvious choice as a film debut, Stewart does a very good job on the film’s dramatic script. There are those moments of black humor, but he also almost always nails the inner-feelings of Bahari as his days in solitary confinement begin to stack up.

One of the things the film does well is giving the audience a sense of empathy towards Bahari’s interrogators. While at times it paints them as uninformed, it never makes them look out to be delirious or unintelligent, and they even make a few valid points as to why they have imprisoned Bahari (such as “the CIA was behind the 1593 Iran coup, so why not this one?”). A somewhat ironic moment was that a piece of “evidence” the interrogators used was one of Stewart’s own Daily Show interviews in which Bahari took part in, and the Iranians saw this as cooperation with “Satan America”.

Gael García Bernal gives a nimble performance as Bahari, starting off as a happy, dedicated journalist and towards the end of the film clearly beginning to break, both mentally and physically (just ignore the fact that in four months of captivity his beard doesn’t change lengths at all). However Bernal never quite seems to reach the same level of desperation as, say, Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”, and that is in part one of the film’s largest flaws.

The movie never truly builds to anything grand. Sure, we know how the story ends, but we also knew the ending to “Apollo 13” and “Captain Phillips” and those are two of the most suspenseful films of all-time (I’m sorry for all the Tom Hanks praising; I swear when I came up with all these examples the connection was not intentional). “Rosewater” is edited so it is scene after scene, and the tension that we as an audience should be feeling is not there.

“Rosewater” is a well-written, capably directed and importantly timed film that is just not as good as it could have been. Still, it was enjoyable or interesting all throughout, and stands as a nice resume builder for a man who should need no introduction to the world delivering of political and social messages.

Critics rating: 7/10