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The Candidate
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The Candidate More at IMDbPro »

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Sort of like what it would be like to hang out with a political candidate throughout the election.

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
30 January 2015

"The Candidate" is a very simple movie. It follows a guy (Robert Redford) who is running for the Senate and you see him from agreeing to run to his eventual election. Throughout, the guy tries (not always successfully) to keep his idealism but there is a strong push by his handlers to get him to talk more and say less at the same time. This aspect of the story is very believable and this man is, more or less, relatively 'normal' and without any earth-shattering secrets or personal deficiencies. In fact, the film has little in the way of excitement--no 'bombshells', no real controversies--just a look at the political process and the men who handle these candidates. Certainly not a must-see film but well worth your time.

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The Story Of An Empty Suit

Author: bigverybadtom from United States
29 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was shown this in social studies class in my senior year in high school decades ago. The liberal teacher used the movie to teach us how real-life political candidates are developed, and he asked us questions such as whether debates were truly useful except as publicizing candidates.

The story itself: Bill McKay, son of a former machine politician governor of California, is talked into running for the Democratic candidate for U. S. Senator by a campaign manager who has just come off a losing election of another candidate. The manager expects McKay to lose anyway, so he tells McKay to say whatever he wants since it won't make any difference.

But as the campaign goes on, the supposedly strong incumbent is vulnerable after all, and McKay wins the Democratic primary, and there is a serious chance McKay could really win the election. No longer can he just say what his beliefs are; he now has to draw in more voters who don't want a strong liberal. Solution: McKay has to be much more vague in answering questions (as directed by his managers), and to give generalized platitudes even his campaign team laugh at. He talks about unity and solving problems-but at the same time fails to tell the public what he intends to do about them. He wins anyway-and is confused as to what to do once he has the job.

While it is true that an empty suit can win an election (look at who our current President is), the movie's inherent problem is that the movie doesn't really give a reason that McKay should have won over the incumbent. Longtime incumbents normally lose if demographics change greatly or if they alienate their constituency in some way; the movie depicts nothing of the sort. Also, McKay shows little enthusiasm for running throughout the whole campaign; surely there are others who would have wanted the spot instead? Still, if nothing else, the best part of the story was where the campaign manager is told to take a chair-and he does so, literally.

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Kind of Fizzled in the Latter Half

Author: Mike B from Canada
4 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is not bad for the first hour. It shows an independent man being chosen, almost at random, to campaign to be a California representative in the U.S. Senate. He is permitted to express, at the beginning, his own independent views; but as he becomes more and more popular his politics, his speeches begin to be more and more circumscribed in order to allow him to gain political office. In other words he starts to be a "real Politician" and tow the line in order to be victorious.

The latter half of the movie seemed redundant to me – it is just one long campaign trail – with speeches and meetings with crucial individuals to gain popularity. It actually was somewhat boring. See Primary Colors for a more sordid close-up of the political process.

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The Candidate Excels In Telling A Tale About Politics

Author: Desertman84 from United States
3 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Candidate is a film starring Robert Redford. Its themes include how the political machine corrupts and the need to dilute one's message to win an election. There are many parallels between the 1970 California Senate election between John V. Tunney and George Murphy, but Redford's character, Bill McKay, is a political novice and Tunney was a seasoned Congressman.The film was shot in Northern California in 1971. Peter Boyle plays the political consultant Marvin Lucas. The screenplay was written by Jeremy Larner, a speechwriter for Senator Eugene J. McCarthy during McCarthy's campaign for the 1968 Democratic Presidential nomination.Director Michael Ritchie and executive producer/star Robert Redford satirically explore the machinations and manipulations of media- age political campaigns in this cynical political drama.

Rumpled left-wing California lawyer Bill McKay, the son of a former governor, is enlisted by campaign maestro Marvin Lucas to challenge Republican incumbent Crocker Jarmon for his Senate seat. McKay agrees, but only if he can say exactly what he thinks. That approach is all well and good when McKay does not seem to have a chance, but things change when his honesty unexpectedly captivates the electorate. As McKay inches up in the polls, Lucas and company start to do what it takes to win, leaving McKay to ponder the consequences of his political seduction. Working without studio interference from a script by Jeremy Larner, a speechwriter for 1968 Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, Ritchie enhanced the behind-the-scenes realism of Larner's insights with a realistic, cinéma vérité approach. He orchestrated a campaign parade for "candidate" Redford that drew such a considerable unstaged audience that local politicians wanted to draft Redford for a real election.

The first and arguably the sharpest expose of the new media-determined American political process, The Candidate offers producer-star Redford one of his strongest dramatic roles; Michael Ritchei's cautionary tale became prophetic in its message.Also,Redford's resemblance to the telegenic Kennedys, and his character's resonance with the future career of California governor Jerry Brown, only emphasized how close to the bone The Candidate was (and is). Released the fateful year of Richard Nixon's reelection, the film garnered accolades, if not substantial box office; Larner won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and thanked the "politicians of our time" for inspiration.Creating a documentary fiction about the semi-truths manufactured to market a candidate, The Candidate shrewdly exposed the effects of the media on the increasingly cynical political process, posing unanswerable questions that have become all the more pressing with every soundbite-ruled election.

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The Best

Author: jprice-4 from Greenwood, SC
23 May 2001

Bill McKay(Robert Redford) is a lawyer and the son of Gov. John J. McKay(Melvin Douglas) who is running for the California US Senate seat against Sen. Crocker Jarmon(Don Porter).

It's a great movie staring Robert Redford, Peter Boyle from "Everybody Loves Raymond",Melvin Douglas,Karen Carlson.

It's the best.

I give it *****.

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Good movie - Food for thought.

Author: DrConway from Vancouver, British Columbia
16 January 2001

I saw the reviews of this movie and I figured I'd give it a shot. It lived up to expectations, but not in the way that I thought. I had rather expected a "1970s Bulworth". Someone who would hit hard, keep hitting hard and never let up, although not using rap to get the point across.

What I actually saw was a realistic story of an idealist's struggles with politics and publicity, as well as the effect on someone's family life. The ending made me stop and think for a while about how the struggle for change can be a tough row to hoe.

I would recommend this movie for anyone who wants to go into politics, since it's a realistic story of the pressures inherent in dealing with the pressures and the "powers-that-be" involved.

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***1/2 star movie. Great film. One of Robert Redford's overlooked films

Author: Rory Aronsky ( from Pembroke Pines, Florida
4 January 2001

This movie seems to have a great talent with documentary-style filming. It's so real that it's as if the filmmakers just let the cameras roll while Bill McKay was on a campaign run. However, this is not real. This involves Robert Redford in an overlooked performance as Bill McKay, an idealistic lawyer who runs for Senator of California to upset an old and creaky warhorse Senator named Crocker Jarmon (Who's really a Crock). This film takes you from the beginning when the idea comes about to the time of the debate (Which is one of the great climaxes of the film) to election night, to the results. If only electing a President in this country were this easy. Robert Redford makes his role the best that it could be. Here's a man that goes through so many parades, interviews and handshakes and yet he still has the same ideals that people love, want, and need. This is a great movie and is worth watching (Especially during a time of election). Michael Ritchie's documentary-style filming is exceptionally and tastefully well done and the rest of the cast (Including a few appearances by Melvyn Douglas) shines along with Redford.

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Author: eric-225 from Chicago
4 November 2000

One of those movies that reminds you why Robert Redford is more than just a pretty-boy actor.

This movie, released in 1972, is perhaps most surprising now because so many of the issues its political characters debate and discuss are still relevant in today's politics - even in this year's presidential election.

The storyline is actually pretty basic and unexciting, but the execution is good and the acting is more often than not quality.

I think I gave it a nine as much for the quality of its social commentary as for its merits as a film.

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One of the best political movies of all time

Author: nick_brown from Portishead, Somerset, UK
28 September 2000

This is actually is a movie about politics and the message is that the system takes over from those who start out with good intentions. From a UK perspective it means more now (the year 2000) than it did when it was released because then it was a picture of where we were heading and now it speaks to where we are!

Soundbites, image and personalities take over from substance, especially as the candidate gets closer to victory. Only those who know they are going to lose can afford to be completely honest, is the message, and the closer you are to winning the more you are under the control of the party machine. As an independent local councillor in the UK I can personally testify to this.

The seventies hairstyles and clothes are unfortunate to the modern viewer but we still recognise the characters, the pressures and the motivations.

As "message films" go, one of the best ever made.

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Frighteningly topical

Author: Rocky Rockmaker (
20 June 2000

The great American tragedy - a man of great integrity, who knows precisely what ethical dangers await one in elected office, sets forth to commit goodness, but in the end becomes -- a politician.

A tremendous insightful film when first released, seen now just on the other side of Bulworth's "threshold of a new millenium," one finds that the only changes after nearly thirty years are sideburn lengths and width of ties.

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