In 2004, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart appeared on an episode of CNN's Crossfire and delivered an expert takedown of the "debate" show, as well as its two hosts, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson. Stewart explained that their penchant for arguing on behalf of Left- and Right-wing politicians was one of the main reasons why our political system was in such shambles, and that maybe by fueling the made-up agendas of political parties, shows like Crossfire were actually just hurting the American people. The clip of Stewart on that show has continued to be insanely popular over the years since the episode aired, mainly because Stewart's words remain true today, perhaps even more so. Irresistible, the new film that Stewart wrote and directed, does a great job of showing just that.
Irresistible stars Steve Carell as Gary Zimmer, a strategist for the Democratic party who sees a viral clip of a retired veteran standing up for the rights of immigrants during a small-town council meeting. Gary sees this man, Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), as a way to win the votes of white, Midwestern Americans, so he heads to Jack's town to convince him to run for mayor. As Gary's Republican rival, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) comes to town to stop him, with the small mayoral election becoming national news, as both political parties funnel millions of dollars into the campaigns.
Carell's Gary is subdued, painted early on as the everyman who wants to do the right thing. Byrne's Faith is played to be a total monster, lying and cheating her way to getting whatever it is the Republican party wants. It seems like Irresistible is going to be a scathing and brutal satire of the Right, delivered by the same hands that accomplished that very same mission on The Daily Show for years on end. However, that's not what this film is. At all. And that fact is probably going to disappoint (or infuriate) quite a few people, especially given our current political climate.
Instead of drawing parallels to taking down the actions of Donald Trump's establishment, an all-too-easy task in 2020, Stewart takes viewers down a much different path. Instead of saying, "Where we are is terrible," he poses the question, "Do you really know how we got here?" As the movie goes on, you'll notice that Gary isn't the incredible person he thinks himself to be, and is actually much more like Faith than he wants to admit. Irresistible takes on the difficult task of explaining that our electoral and political systems are deeply flawed, down to their cores, and that they are at the root of our issues.
What Stewart does so well with this film is show that everyday Americans, with no political influence whatsoever, can work together to solve their problems and make things happen for themselves. It's passionately empathetic about the individual citizens of our country. Perhaps we would all get along much better if there weren't political parties, or shows like Crossfire, trying their hardest to force us who to hate and why.
It's hard to get into more detail without ruining the major twist at the end of the film, but Stewart delivers a dynamite third act reveal that brings it all home.
Irresistible works in its own right, though it's certainly elevated by its core performances. Byrne is endlessly funny, Cooper is as solid as ever, and Mackenzie Davis absolutely shines. But it's Carell that puts in the best work here, turning in one of the most subtle and enjoyable performances of his career. A lot of people aren't going to like Irresistible, feeling like it tried to "play it safe" by avoiding taking a political side. The thing is, though, Irresistible does take a side, it's just fighting in a different battle.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Irresistible is now available to rent on-demand.