Actual politics are more coherent than ‘Irresistible’

Irresistible
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Grade: 0.5/5

It’s tempting to call “Irresistible” the worst kind of political satire — the kind that rehashes the same shallow and familiar caricatures with little meat to its criticism — but even that would wrongly imply that “Irresistible” makes any coherent statement at all.

Directed by comedian and “The Daily Show” alum Jon Stewart, the film follows Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell), a Democratic political consultant whose career tanked after Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 presidential election. Upon discovering Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), a charismatic and progressive retired Marine from a small Wisconsin town, Gary decides to help him run as a Democratic challenger to the town’s incumbent Republican mayorship.

 But for a film employing some of the sharpest satirical wits in the industry, it’s astounding that nobody involved could find something — anything — original for “Irresistible” to say. By all possible measures, the film is a failure. It’s a technically muddled, painfully contrived attempt at caricature for caricature’s sake, and a tedious and ignorant comedic blunder.

Even without getting into criticism of the film’s actual content, it’s relevant to note that “Irresistible” is easily one of the worst big budget films, on a technical level, in recent memory. Entire scenes feel scraped together from outtakes, throwing blocking and spatial continuity to the wind. Sound quality and levels noticeably change between cuts, sometimes even in the middle of a single character’s line. Perhaps these issues are a result of rushed production, major narrative changes after picture lock, or both. But for whatever reason, the finished product is a rough hodgepodge of assets from beginning to end.

Though it’s tempting to overlook these issues, they exacerbate the central flaws of the film: a lack of any focus on its characters. Much of the film attempts to follow Gary as he drives people away through his lack of empathy and coldly political mindset — namely, his client Jack, Republican rival Faith (Rose Byrne) and potential love interest Diana (Mackenzie Davis).

Despite these characters’ plotlines, “Irresistible” seems satisfied to give each as little screentime with Gary as possible. The movie treats them more like props for Carell to act at, rather than co-stars for him to act with. This only calls attention to the obtuse plot, which culminates in a rapid string of unjustified twists in its final minutes. The last of these is shallow, abrupt and obnoxiously preachy enough to wholly discredit the film.

As if this isn’t enough, the film’s attempts at comedy are almost universally unfunny. Its jokes are often half-baked, like vestigial remnants of an earlier draft of the script. Others are blatantly unoriginal, awkwardly paced or even shockingly tone deaf. 

In one scene, “white power” proponents armed with tiki torches peacefully mingle in a crowd alongside “pussyhat” feminists and dreadlock-wearing, dashiki-adorned Black Lives Matter activists. The film doesn’t even attempt to critique the methods and ideologies of its political activists on any point of the spectrum, content simply to uniformly dismiss them as a menagerie of shallow caricatures.

Elsewhere, “Irresistible” ridicules a disabled “corporate elite” campaign donor, whose exaggerated robotic prosthetics and glitchy text-to-speech software seem to be the entire extent of the joke. At a certain point, this humor is no longer about parodying “corporate elites.” It’s simply about parodying disabled people. 

If the film can’t comprehend these very rudimentary distinctions — its approach so incompetent that it accidentally wanders into such offensive non sequiturs — it’s strange that it feels confident enough to take on anything as salient as electoral corruption or white supremacy.

“Irresistible” isn’t simply a poorly made, uncompelling film. It’s a pointless one. It attempts so many plot twists and trick endings that its narrative becomes indiscernible; its characters underdeveloped and muddled; its sense of humor unclear at best and tone deaf at worst. All of these faults could perhaps be understood if in service to some compelling central critique. But the film’s attempts at political commentary are sophomoric and moralistic, outdone by even the most shallow of political pundits. Simply put, “Irresistible” is irredeemably, irrefutably terrible. 

Olive Grimes covers film. Contact them at [email protected]. Tweet them at @ogrimes5.