Andrew Shepherd is approaching the end of his first term as President of the United States. He's a widower with a young daughter and has proved to be popular with the public. His election seems assured. That is until he meets Sydney Ellen Wade, a paid political activist working for an environmental lobby group. He's immediately smitten with her and after several amusing attempts, they finally manage to go on a date (which happens to be a State dinner for the visiting President of France). His relationship with Wade opens the door for his prime political opponent, Senator Bob Rumson, to launch an attack on the President's character, something he could not do in the previous election as Shepherd's wife had only recently died. Written by
Camp David is strictly off-limits to the public and the media. The production designer used someone's personal snapshots from the Richard Nixon Era and a lot of imagination when designing the set. See more »
At the State Dinner, the French President is talking face to the camera, while the audience can watch Sydney's turning her ring around the finger - a second later, the camera shows Sydney in front, still listening to the President's story, but keeps her hands straight now. See more »
Composed by Léo Delibes
Performed by Mady Mesplé and Danielle Millet
with Alain Lombard conducting The Paris Opéra-Comique Chorus & Orchestra
Courtesy of EMI Classics
under license from CEMA Special Markets See more »
A startlingly well made political love story, The American President succeeds hugely in the tremendously difficult task of being a good love story and a good political story at the same time.
Michael Douglas, who is most well known for his enormous skill in playing stolid villains or regular men who become desperate because they manage to get themselves in way over their head, puts off these characteristics to play the part of the President of the United States, and he delivers a towering performance in this role. The story is based on the fact that President Andrew Shephard (Douglas) will soon be facing reelection, an election which may be compromised by the fact that he is developing a romantic interest in an envorinmental lobbyist named Sydney Ellen Wade (played beautifully by Annette Bening). Matters are complicated by the fact that Shephard's wife died just before he was elected in the first place, and his cabinet members (particularly Lewis Rothschild, played by Michael J. Fox) are urgently trying to persuade him not to date during the election.
One of the strange things about this movie is that it's kind of ironic that no one has really made a political film like this that centers around a romance involving the President. Indeed, watching a man as powerful as the U.S. President using his powers to flirt with someone that he has a crush on (okay, that sounded pretty dumb. Maybe no one's done it before because it sounds ridiculous in writing!), trying at the same time to persuade her that he really is the President. While it doesn't exactly SOUND like it would make the greatest film, this premise has resulted in the exceedingly superior romantic comedy that we see in The American President.
The performances in the film are spectacular throughout, but it's actually the script that deserves even more attention than the actors' performances, which is a rare distinction in a film. I think that the reason that The American President succeeds so well as a political film as well as a romantic comedy is that both elements are so realistically presented. I think it was Roger Ebert who praised The American President for approaching and handling real issues, such as gun control and the environment, instead of side-stepping this and trying to present a President who is not taking any certain stands on any certain issues that might cause the film's audience to like him or the movie less.
The love story, one of the easiest things in the cinematic medium to completely screw up, is done brilliantly here, largely because of the occupations of the two subjects that it centers on as well as the excellent script. The movie has a nearly endless amount of comments to make about the American Presidency, the way that the public sees the office, and the restrictions that it places on its occupants. There is a pleasant irony between such things as President Shephard's ability to get Wade on the phone when she doesn't even have a phone of her own (hey, I'm a poet and I didn't even realize it ), but his complementary inability to even bring her to the house for a nice, innocent dinner.
President Andrew Shephard is faced with the unfortunate task of trying to appease the American public, retain his position in the White House, convince Sydney Ellen Wade that he is who he says he is and that he is genuinely interested in her, and provide for his own romantic happiness, with the added conflict that if any one of them fails, all of the others are likely to fail as well. It's true that, this being a rather light-hearted romantic comedy, we already know how the film is going to end, but brilliant dialogue, a fascinating story, unusually interesting characters, and a tense political atmosphere prevent the material from getting boring just because we really already know how it's going to turn out in the end. Besides that, the romance in the film is so well done that that element alone makes it worth watching.
There's a scene in the film when President Shephard and Wade are dancing in a crowded dinner hall, and she asks him what people are going to think about the whole situation, wondering who that woman is and why the President is dancing with her. In an example of the brilliance of the script as well as the reason that the romantic plot of the film succeeds so well, Shephard responds, `Sydney Ellen Wade, because she said yes.'
You see, romance CAN be done right sometimes.
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