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The Candidate
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Candidate More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Timeless political comedy with bite.

Author: jckruize from North Hemis
25 October 2002

Unobtrusive, documentary-style direction by the underrated Michael Ritchie lends verisimilitude to Jeremy Larner's witty (Oscar-winning) script. It feels like you're really on the campaign trail with a "pretty-boy" senatorial candidate (played with typically effortless charm by Robert Redford), who can barely keep up with a platform being built on the fly and the relentless media blitz that dogs him every step. Events move swiftly to their inevitable, ironic conclusion, highlighted by one of the best closing lines in cinema history.

Terrific support is provided by character actors Peter Boyle, Allen Garfield, Melvyn Douglas and others, plus a host of cameos by real politicians of the era such as Alan Cranston and Hubert Humphrey. If you want an idea how modern American politics works, this is still a pretty good primer.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A who's who of 1970s politics

Author: Sky Beaver from Canada
18 November 2007

One of the best movies about politics EVER.

One of the really cool things about this movie is the list of cameo appearances. Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, John Tunney, Gene Washington, Cedric Hardman, Van Amburg, and other notables from California Democratic politics circa 1972 are all in here.

George McGovern reputedly hated this movie. Remember that he was the Democratic nominee for president in 1972. When asked about "The Candidate", he said "I didn't like it, I thought it reflects the darkest side of American politics".

Redford is amazing in this film, as an idealistic young lawyer torn between principle and ambition. Definitely one of the greatest actors of our time.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Film for all would be candidates to view

Author: Captain Ken from Chicago USA
26 March 2002

Anyone thinking of running for public office should view this film. It is primer on how to win a race. Roman Pucinski when he ran for the U.S. Senate in Illinois in 1972 required his staff to view this film. Redford was the candidate we all hope would serve our state. This film should be shown before every election.It has a timeless message

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7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Great movie, hope they make a sequel some day!

Author: Streetwolf
5 January 2006

I finally got to see this movie and I found it very charming.

Quick summary:

Redford plays a semi-serious lawyer Bill McKay whose father was once a governor for California. Now some want him to follow his father's footsteps and become a candidate for senator, but he has a tough rival and his attitude towards it all seems as if he doesn't want to do it, but does it anyway.

Redford is just great in this movie... and very cute! The ending is left just right fora sequel, which I wonder why they haven't made yet.


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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

insightful writing and good performances

Author: SnoopyStyle
28 January 2015

Political operative Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) is looking for a Democratic candidate to oppose popular Republican U.S. Senator Crocker Jarmon in California. He convinces idealistic do-gooder lawyer Bill McKay (Robert Redford) to enter the race in an unwinable race. He offers him an opportunity to say whatever he wants. McKay is the son of former governor John J. McKay (Melvyn Douglas) and becomes the nominee. His campaign is being crushed by the Jarmon machine and he tries to water down his message. He struggles between the same politics as usual and his convictions as the race tightens.

The Watergate break-in happened and nobody cared. The public still has some blind naivety about the world of politics at the time. This movie skewers it with a bit of humor and lots of insight. The shooting style is slightly documentary style. Redford and Boyle are terrific. The writing digs deep and wins the Oscar. It's a great movie about the real political world.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Solid political drama

Author: NORDIC-2 from Barre, VT
12 June 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The principal speech writer for Senator Eugene McCarthy during McCarthy's unsuccessful bid to win the Democratic Party's nomination for President in the spring of 1968, Jeremy Larner was uniquely qualified to write the screenplay for 'The Candidate'. A political operative with access to the inner workings of a major campaign, Larner was also an idealist who had become deeply disillusioned by the discrediting and abandonment of FDR-style liberalism in the late Sixties—done to death by LBJ's prosecution of the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon's opportunistic stress on "law and order" (a thinly disguised code term for white, middle-class reaction). Toward the end of Nixon's first term Larner penned 'The Candidate' as a protest and a warning that American politics was being stripped of any last vestiges of honor and ideological integrity for the sake of winning at all costs. Accordingly, 'The Candidate' follows the fortunes of Bill McKay (Robert Redford), a young, handsome civil rights lawyer and the son of former governor John J. McKay (Melvyn Douglas), who is recruited by Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle), a shrewd political hack, to run against the seemingly unbeatable Republican incumbent, U.S. Senator Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter). Convinced that he cannot win, McKay initially uses his candidacy as a forum to air liberal issues close to his heart: poverty, racism, ecological degradation, gun control, abortion rights, etc. Once it dawns on McKay that he will likely be on the wrong side of a humiliating landslide, he takes his campaign seriously and increasingly relies on Lucas to recast his image and dilute his liberalism so that he will appear more palatable to a conservative electorate. As he closes in on Jarmon in the polls, the latter requests a televised debate, during which McKay sticks to the prescribed platitudes—until the very end, when he blurts out his frustration with the contrived, irrelevant nature of the proceedings. His candor infuriates his handlers but makes his father proud of him. Indeed, the venerable John J. McKay makes a public show of support (that had been heretofore withheld at his son's request). In the end, Bill McKay wins his race against Senator Jarmon but has sacrificed his core ideals in the process: a result that Jeremy Larner finds universal and inevitable in the overwhelmingly corrupt money and media-saturated climate of contemporary American politics. Larner's superb, prescient, and still highly relevant script garnered the 1973 the Writer's Guild of America (WGA) Award for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen and the 1973 Oscar for Best Writing. The film also features cameos by a host of real politicians and journalists. Not everyone was impressed with 'The Candidate', however. Three weeks after the film premiered, New York congresswoman Bella Abzug (1920-1998) published a piece in the 'New York Times' that excoriated the movie for largely omitting the complicated, exhausting fund-raising process that is a huge part of every political campaign. She also found fault with its male-centered perspective and pervasive cynicism. VHS (1996) and DVD (1997).

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Superb political tale...some issues and tactics never change

Author: vincentlynch-moonoi from United States
22 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Candidate" was the second film in which I saw Robert Redford; the first was "Jeremiah Johnson". Both were released in 1972. And I knew from the moment I saw this film that Redford was something special.

40 years, and at the base level, it's clear that politics hasn't changed too much. Yes, there's a lot of big money involved now, but the basics of candidate and voter is about the same...except less vitriol.

There's not exactly a plot here. It's more a story of a political pro attempting to make a modern "do-gooder" into his candidate. Redford plays an idealistic community organizer who doesn't really want to be senator, but goes along with it and then gets wrapped up in it. Not a plot, but a story about relationships and the evolution of a candidacy.

It's interesting to see some old familiar faces -- Natalie Wood, Howard K. Smith, and others.

Redford is superb. But then again, he almost always was. This was probably one of Peter Boyle's best roles, and Allen Garfield was impressive, as well. Melvyn Douglas was a pleasure to see in his role as the candidate's father. And Don Porter showed his versatility in playing the old favorite Republican candidate.

It's hard to find a negative in this film. It's worth watching and perhaps having on your DVD shelf.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:


Author: TheFamilyBerzurcher from United States
18 March 2012

THE CANDIDATE is a fascinating piece of work. Viewed this week with MEDIUM COOL -- Which one poses the greater criticism of television? MEDIUM COOL soaks in faked realism, THE CANDIDATE does the same. But they are such different pictures. In the end, CANDIDATE ultimately forms a more electric and buzzing indictment of Communication Age politics and it does so at a predictably steep price.

CANDIDATE revels in a backstage, "candid" approach to political procedure. It harnesses a very active camera - moving, zooming, panning. Evidenced immediately in the credit soundtrack, this isn't meant to be a deft evaluation of Americana, it's a mockery. McKay has his sleeves pulled up, he's eating, he's unbuttoned, he's untucked, he's incorruptible. And the picture is presented as such a slick piece of entertainment that it's just about impossible to disagree. Here's the really interesting part. Whether or not CANDIDATE was aiming for it -- was it? -- it shows television as the most formidable political gamechanger in history. So many of the lines tailor to it -- "they" cut your hair. So many scenes are Television Training Camp. There's the self-satisfied shot where the camera pans into the viewfinder of the TV camera while McKay compromises on his crime policy. In essence, CANDIDATE demonstrates a radically different and devolved political landscape than earlier pieces. Is McKay a Jefferson Smith of the 70's? I think he is -- thanks to the script.

This celebrated script. It stacks Politicians against Non-Politicians and has Redford migrate from the former to the latter. And how it abuses Redford! Possibly the best thing about the film is Redford's amicability and his tangible love for filmmaking. Three years after Sundance, he is ready to be cool for the adults. But what about this script they hand him? The liberalism is so piquant that it smells like we would be better off without government. Like politics is somehow more corrupt or convoluted than anything else in the age of television. The one thing it gets right -- accidentally or not? -- is how the equation of celebrity and politics equals power. Towards the end, the script wallows so much in its own sagacity that it is enough to make me seasick. My biggest question is this -- is the ambitious and potent critique of television incidental or not? And another, how connected are Bill and Barack?

Jefferson. Bill. Barack. America evolves, doesn't it?


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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

the more things change...

Author: Michael Neumann from United States
9 November 2010

Jeremy Larner's brilliant, behind-the-scenes look at a modern political campaign and the marketing experts who make them work stars Robert Redford as an anti-politics California liberal reluctantly drawn into a race for the U.S. Senate with the naive hope of actually making a difference. He discovers, too late, that government isn't about issues or representation, but about exposure and packaging, marching bands and American flags; in other words, all the empty flotsam which, years later, now seems to mark the entire political process. The early '70s fashions are badly dated, but the film itself is more incisive than ever, showing how campaign attitudes, and sometimes even the actual speeches, haven't changed at all since 1972. Director Michael Ritchie reinforces the near-documentary authenticity by enlisting celebrities to portray themselves, from Natalie Wood to Mike Wallace. In 1988 the film was named by then Vice Presidential candidate Dan Quayle as a career influence, despite his obviously having missed the point of it entirely.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Great film, great screenplay and great actors !

Author: norakecer from France
27 July 2010

This film is a masterpiece in lots of ways. First of all excellent screenplay and an amazing supporting cast (Allen Garfield as Redford's ad man and Melvyn Douglas as Redford's father). Robert Redford plays Bill Mc Kay a young lawyer, son of Governor John J. McKay who becomes a candidate for senator. Mc Kay is very sympathetic and handsome too. Robert Redford is really incredible in this film, as an idealistic young lawyer torn between principle and ambition. Bob is definitely one of the talented actors of our time. This film has also a timeless message and should be shown before every election. What is also really very interesting in this film is how Bill Mc Kay evolves and how the political machine changes him. Finally we realize particularly at the end that he's no different from Crocker Jarmon his opponent (the debate scene is brilliantly performed by both actors Robert Redford and Don Porter).Indeed, what Bill Mc Kay stands for, his priorities, his principles will be sacrificed just to get elected as he realizes that he can win. Michael Ritchie does a brilliant job as well directing this film A MUST SEE movie that deserves a sequel.

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