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
Romantic, amusing, inspiring portrait of President's fish bowl life
This is a great feel good movie about a charismatic, essentially very decent, fictional U.S. President, played by Michael Douglas in an extremely likable role. It's a political story as well as a love story. Douglas is both commanding & assured in his presidential role and charming & endearing in his romantic role. If anyone has not yet seen this movie, you'll discover you're in for an unexpected treat. There's something here for everyone...romance, comedy, politics, and drama.
Andrew Shepherd is a youngish, popular President soon up for re election. Pressure is being put to bear on him to consolidate his administration's high poll ratings by pushing through a moderate crime bill which totally lacks Republican party support, yet is considered too weak by the Democrats. Meanwhile he finds himself attracted to Sydney Wade, an environmental lobbyist who is seeking legislation to reduce carbon monoxide emissions. Shepherd has been widowed for three years, and currently needs an escort for a State Dinner in honour of the President of France. He invites Sydney to this function and during this & subsequent encounters, the pair fall in love. Trouble ensues when Shepherd is torn between the politically expedient crime bill and the environmental legislation he has promised his new love interest.
In terms of romance, there is the ongoing love story between the widowed President and the young lobbyist, Sydney, charmingly played by Annette Benning. This lovely and intelligent lady is quite smitten but at first obviously a bit overwhelmed by it all, feeling awkward and uncertain as the President's date. Sydney looks absolutely radiant at the state ball as she is swept off her feet by this handsome leader of the free world. Their chemistry proves to be electric, the dialogue clever, and the potential sexual situations quite tasteful by modern standards. Naturally the course of true love never does run smooth so it goes without saying that additionally, this unusual fishbowl courtship would have some unique problems as politics and public opinion intrude upon the couple's personal life.
A certain built in comedy natural for a dating President makes this romance all the more enchanting. For instance, when Andrew attempts to buy his sweetheart some roses, can't you just imagine the national crisis that all but ensues? Despite his position as Head of State, Andrew likes to do his courting the old fashioned, personal way. During his initial phone call to Sydney, she believes he's one of her friends pulling a prank, which of course results in some hilarity.
Naturally this tale is ripe with politics, and some reviewers even claim that the film is something of a precursor to TV's West Wing. Shepherd faces the dilemma of being forced to choose between the crime bill that his party is after him to push, versus Sydney's particular environmental cause. Not only party politics, but there is waning public support to consider. Needless to say, the President has no lack of advisers around who are more than eager to state their views, giving at times unsolicited advice. Martin Sheen plays his Chief of Staff and Michael J. Fox is cast as his Domestic Policy adviser. Shepherd must also contend with mud slinging by a nasty, unscrupulous rival Senator (portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss), who calls into question both Shepherd's family values and his girlfriend's activist past. By the way, any liberal political bias presented in this movie proved totally inoffensive to me. I definitely didn't sense that the producers had a nefarious grand agenda here.
Drama wise, there's a touching, close relationship depicted between the President and his charming young teenage daughter, Lucy, and a definite sense of his loneliness following the death of his wife from cancer. Also, Shepherd is confronted with the choice of keeping his promise to Sydney versus salvaging his political career. His Oval Office moral dilemmas are not only relevant to the Presidency but can be extrapolated to any person in any career.
This film delivers a powerful message about both personal and presidential integrity. At one point there's a moving speech that is inspiring for anyone, but may give American viewers in particular cause for reflection about the real significance of their country's Presidency and the qualities they might want to look for in the person elected to that office. Personally, I was practically ready to start flying the Stars and Stripes and I'm not even American! Whatever the nation involved, pity we don't have more Andrew Shepherds in political life today.
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