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The Candidate
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The Candidate More at IMDbPro »

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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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Well-made, and more or less informative

Author: Surfer-23
25 March 2000

A fine film about a young lawyer (Robert Redford) running for the senate, encouraged by an old college-friend-turned-campaign-manager (Peter Boyle). Redford is assured by him that he will lose against the Republican incumbent and that he can therefore be as honest as he wants in the campaign. As his popularity increases, however, and it looks as though he may in fact win, his managers are far more careful about what they will and will not allow him to say on the issues of the day.

The Candidate is very well made, with an excellent screenplay and supporting cast (particularly Allen Garfield as Redford's ad man and Melvyn Douglas as Redford's dad, a former governor of the state), but, probably because of Redford's own political views, the film doesn't go as far as it could in showing the corruption rampant in party politics. There is one scene in which Redford has a run-in with a Teamster boss, but it remains unresolved, and in the next scene Redford is more or less back to his old idealism. We know something happened, but we have no idea what.

Despite this, The Candidate is highly recommended.

Watch for familiar faces, including Senator Hubert Humphrey.

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No Longer a Satire

Author: Canino-4 from Roseville, Ca
7 February 2000

As a nation We must face up to the facts that we'll be watching President Michael Jordan at his state of the nation in the near future. Therefore, I think it is time reclassify The Candidate, the quintessential political satire, as something more along the lines of historic fiction.

After all, what's satirical about an alleged maverick who rides a wave of good looks, charm and vacant promises into high office? Was I the only one in America who coughed up his fettucini when George W. Bush had the nerve to promise no new taxes, only new tax cuts? Am I the only one who remembers that even conservatives didn't care for his daddy? Satire is reality now. Mark Twain would be a realist now, not a humorist.

Which brings us back to The Candidate. Awesome. You have Redford (sideburns and all), the idealistic lawyer helping the migrant farmworkers down in San Diego. You have Peter Boyle as the old college chum who offers Redford a free platform in an election he can't win. Throw in Allan Garfield as a king-making campaign expert, and Melvyn Douglas as Redford's estranged father, a former Governor, and you got it all. The acting by these folks is excellent. The presence of many real reporters and journalists only adds to the realism.

You aren't five minutes into the campaign, and the sideburns are gone, the sell out begins. From the trenches down in San Diego, to the rich lady lunch-ins in Bel Air, sucking around for money and votes. So much for idealism. Natalie Wood shows up, as herself, and as you watch Redford chat with her, you'd swear it was Bubba Clinton. It's no surprise that writer Jeremy Larner and director Michael Ritchie are both veterans of the campaign trail. They understand it from the inside out.

A big reason this movie towers over most recent political films, is because it never feels canned. I really believe (Idealism alert!) that this film was made to teach, not simply to make a buck. Lately, when I watch most new political satire, or any new satire for that matter, I often feel cheated. I get the impression that I'm being pandered to, rather than enlightened. I'm too often reminded that I'm watching a Hollywood product, with the everpresent marketing logos sprinkled throughout, and the forced pop references. Satire is supposed to ridicule through irony. Films like The Candidate and Network don't wink at the audience. They play it straight down the line, heightening the absurdity of their subject, by keeping a straight face.

Treasure this movie. It's fast becoming a dinosaur. I can't imagine trying to write a satire on politics these days. Maybe that's why the more recent films don't quite measure up. Maybe it's not Hollywood, but the decrepit political system that ties the hands of the new breed of filmmakers. Maybe it isn't the money that kills filmmakers integrity, but simply the lack of good material to make a good satire. Maybe the last two lines I wrote were laced with satire!

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

thoughtful political study

Author: HelloTexas11 from United States
9 February 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'The Candidate' isn't a great film but it does have its perceptive moments and a certain sly, knowing quality about the subject it deals with, big-time politics. This shouldn't be too surprising, as its screenwriter, Jeremy Larner, was a former speech writer for Eugene McCarthy during his presidential bid. Perhaps it's the passage of time and the advent of 24-hour cable news networks, but much of the film seems obvious now, almost quaint. Robert Redford plays Bill McKay, son of a famous California governor, who has no interest in running for office at the start; he's a liberal activist lawyer helping Indians, hippies, and the downtrodden in general. A political consultant, Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle), seeks him out to become the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, mainly because no one else wants to take on the popular Republican incumbent. Lucas presents the idea to McKay like this: you don't have a chance of winning, so you can say whatever you want. McKay brushes aside his initial misgivings, finding that the idea appeals to him. After the campaign has been underway a while and McKay has secured his party's nomination, Lucas tells McKay the polls show that not only will he lose, he'll be "humiliated." Now why he would be humiliated, much less why it should matter to him, is never made clear and is a weakness in the script. Wasn't he supposed to lose? In any event, it does change McKay's thinking and so an effort is made to 'broaden' his appeal. He begins watering down his speeches and his campaign takes on a more generic tone, with upbeat TV commercials and a cheerful slogan, "For a better way: Bill McKay!" The candidate and some of his supporters become increasingly disillusioned even while his standings in the polls rises. Finally, there is a televised debate between McKay and his opponent, where at the end, a frustrated McKay lets loose and ticks off a litany of social problems that he says haven't been addressed in the debate. This return to his liberal roots has a mixed reception; Lucas thinks he's ruined everything but some of McKay's disheartened followers are buoyed. McKay follows this approach through to the election in which to everyone's surprise, not least him and Lucas, he defeats the incumbent to become senator. The famous last shot is of McKay sitting in a hotel room during the election celebration, asking Lucas, "Marvin, what do we do now?", which never receives an answer as a crowd of media and campaign volunteers swarm into the room to congratulate him. There's a lot of truth in 'The Candidate,' and though it is written from a liberal perspective, it doesn't spare that side of the political equation from some hard questions, especially that very last one.

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