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Rob Reiner & Aaron Sorkin Channel Frank Capra
Instant_Palmer28 January 2019
Aaron Sorkin sets a snappy pace for this classic romance/comedy/Cinderella Story, utilizing the White House, the President, and his staff as the conduit for his dialogue writing prowess.

Clearly, this film helped influence the creation of The West Wing four years later, even using the same Oval Office set shown in this film. The sets and atmosphere are presented in immaculate detail, and authentic looking, surpassing anything ever portrayed in film other than the Whitehouse itself. I've been in the real Whitehouse, including the Oval Office, and have also sat at the faux Resolute desk on the set of West Wing (same desk used in this film). There was a tremendous investment made to recreate the real thing in this film, and Reiner pulled it off perfectly.

In Sorkin's screenplays, self-confidence, keen intellect, superior communication ability, and one's ethics-compass are at the core of the protagonist's persona.

Michael Douglas portrays Democratic President Andrew Shepherd with the same believability and deft touch as he did playing Gordon Gecko in Wall Street.

Annette Benning is the ideal girlfriend of the widowed Shepherd, and engages the audience (and Douglas) in one of her most charming performances.

A first-class supporting actor ensemble are up to the task of portraying Sorkin's crack White House staff, adding immensely to making this film a feel-good romance that is believable and fun.

The plot doesn't delve deeply into the emotions or feelings of Shepard nor Benning's lobbyist charecter Sydney Ellen Wade, but highlights the witty repertoire one would expect from a US President and Capitol Hill lobbyist. The deft skill and movie-star quality each actor has developed in their respective acting careers are showcased with Sorkin's writing in telling this Whitehouse Cinderella story.

If the film went deep into emotions, it would have just gotten in the way of a story of a widowed relatively young President falling in love at first sight with Sydney, and the fun of seeing her being thrust into the White House staff and press fish bowl.

There is a definite Frank Capra influence to the film.

It all works better than it might seem on paper, and we get to enjoy another Rob Reiner classic: A director whose movie-making style and subject-matter is as diverse as anyone in the business.
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A warm, idealistic, romantic, and superb insider look at the American Presidency
secondtake16 January 2013
The American President (1995)

What a smart, fast, feel-good movie about American politics and the power of the presidency. And how unlikely (these thing don't usually go together).

What makes it work? Everything! I know deep down that this isn't a masterpiece, a Citizen Kane or Godfather kind of movie. But it is in its own way perfect. It's funny as can be--endlessly witty or sarcastic or actually cleverly funny. It's acted to a T, including of course the two leads, Michael Douglas in his alpha male with a personable side and Annette Bening in her utterly charming and disarmingly sharp warmth.

It's almost impossible to appreciate the huge list of side characters who are first rate through and through, even in their very brief roles. Richard Dreyfuss might be the least of these since he plays an obvious stereotype. Michael J. Fox is funny and quick and Martin Sheen is quasi-presidential as he needs to be since of course (via "West Wing") he later becomes the president.

But not here. This is the story of Douglas and Bening. It presages the excellent British version , in its own way, "Love Actually," with Hugh Grant and an equally big cast of excellent extras, but that was more purely feel-good (or feel-incredibly-good) and this one eight years earlier actually has a political axe to grind.

In fact, I'm going to guess that one reason for the slightly deflated ratings is the conservative audience didn't really like what the president stands for here, and though it is just a movie, it's easier to root for the cast when they tend to agree with you. And agree in emphatic eloquent ways. There is a speech Douglas (as president) gives toward the end that comes out and boldly takes a simple stand for decent liberal values. He's confident, clear, and unwavering. And if you agree with that kind of thing (I do) you want to say hurrah.

And you want our own darned president to say what he believes so simply and with such firmness.

Of course, all of this is simplified and made too easy. Luckily it's not only about politics. In fact it's a comedy or manners, you might say, the protocol of who to behave with and near the president being fodder for great laughs just as much as the Victorian plays and movies had fun with the same twists of expectations. No wonder it morphed into a hit television series--though oddly enough the humor gets minimized. Maybe the same kinds of jokes wear themselves out.

Rob Reiner is maybe our most astute politically astute director, at least when there is a sense of humor required. He cut his teeth in every way with the best, working with and under Norman Lear in years of shooting (and performing, as "Meathead") in "All in the Family." It shows here. He has a real knack for timing, for turning absurdity to wit, and for warmth. (He probably got some of that from the Smothers Brothers, too.) If you like this don't stop here--Reiner has many other good or possibly great movies, many getting better reviews than this one.

But here we have "The American President," deceptively simple in its title. This is above all a really cozy movie. You want to watch, and you want to be there. At least for a couple hours.

I sound foolish liking this silly movie too much, but there you have it.
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My name is Andrew Shepherd and I AM the president of the United States!
baumer30 June 1999
Is there a genre that Rob Reiner can't work in and make successful? He captured comedy beautifully with The Sure Thing. Music was brilliant with This is Spinal Tap. Horror? How about Misery? Courtroom drama was awesome with A Few Good Men. And now we have a political drama/comedy. There is nothing this man can't do.

This movie works inspite of people's claims that it is too political. Well you know what, it's about the president of the United States of America, there's going to be a bit of poiltics in it. And guess what, guns do kill people, so to have an issue at hand here that deals with gun control is applaudable.

Okay, that's out of the way, let's talk about the film itself. Because it is wonderful. It is funny, well acted, and it is written with a good ear.

The cast in this film is one to be envied by almost everyone except Oliver Stone and Robert Altman who seem to get everyone to do their films. But here we have Douglas as the president, Sheen as his aid, Michael J. Fox, Samantha Mathis, Annette Bening as Sydney Ellen Wade and in my favourite performance, Richard Dreyfuss as the sniveling weasle Senator Bob Rumsen.

As the story goes, the president's character gets questioned when he ( a widow ) finds a girlfriend in Sydney Wade. The issues are handled wonderfully here. Nothing is really tip-toed around as the script writer ( Aaron Sorkin ) writes a brave script about what is right and wrong with being the president and having a girlfriend.

I personally liked the politics in the film. I enjoyed how Shepherd decides to ignore the critisism leveled at him until the very end when he gives one of the best written speeches I've ever seen in film. And when he flexes his authoritative muscles, you feel his power, you feel that the president has spoken. And I was moved. This is a great film and one that should be checked out for sure.

**** I also found it to be interesting that the character in the film that tries to get the issue of gun control brought to the forefront is Michael J. Fox. He is Canadian and we don't have problems with guns here. Is it a coincidence ( probably ) that he was chosen to play this role? Or was it done deliberately? Interesting.
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Warm, fun film with a big heart
bob the moo15 February 2002
US President Andrew Shepherd is a widower who was sweep into power on the back of great public sympathy. Three years into his presidency he meets and falls for Sydney Ellen Wade, an environmental lobbyist. Eventually they begin to date against the counsel of his advisors, giving his rivals (most notably Senator Rumson) and the media the ammunition they need to begin to attack his presidency.

This is not exactely a political thriller. In fact it is as far removed from reality as you could imagine. However that's the point, this film doesn't pretend to be anything other than a romantic comedy - it has some political wranglings but it is very far from the (still very tidy and clean) rule of Martin Sheen's President in TV's The West Wing. However the story is nicely handled and Rob Reiner is natually very good at this type of thing. Here it occasionally is far too sickly sweet and sentimental, but most of it works well.

Douglas is good in the lead and looks quite acceptable as the President of the US - lets be honest, if it was him or "oil baron" Bush who would you pick? Bening is also good as Sydney but neither have anything outside of the usual romantic leads to do. The real strength here is the supporting cast - both in terms of class and sheer enterainment value.To name a few - Sheen, MJ Fox, Mathis, Dreyfuss - all big names, all funny performances.

Overall this is a big sloppy romantic comedy, but it's done with so much class that it's hard not to like it. Not brillant, but very enjoyable all the same.
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Romantic, amusing, inspiring portrait of President's fish bowl life
roghache5 March 2006
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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Okay, without a doubt this is one of my favorite romantic comedies.
fredericksmith19527 June 2012
Okay, without a doubt this is one of my favorite romantic comedies. Michael Douglas comes off as Presidential, Annette Benning is spectacular, Martin Sheen is exceptional, and the supporting cast is marvelous. And this is all directed by Rob Reiner, the 2nd generation actor writer director who understands every aspect of film making and is not afraid to let loose with all the knowledge, power and presence required to make a first class film.

Of particular note are David Paymer, Michael J. Fox, and Anna Deavere Smith, all three exceptional character actors whose contributions add so much to the texture and tone of the film. Paymer is the perfect foil to Fox, and Anna balances them perfectly, giving a unity to the staff presence in the film.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the film is the incorporation of 'normal' events in the White House during the romance. We are not excluded or merely "clued in", but we participate in all the activities of the President, which makes the film more realistic and visceral. The flow of the film is exceptional, since there are no explosions or other violence to distract us, and the cinematography is amazing. The sets are perfect. Rated PG-13 for a scene of sexual innuendo and a few uses of profanity, this film is far from offensive in its delivery, its demeanor, or its presentation. A classic which will enhance any collection.
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The thinking woman's Pretty Woman
doll_face10 July 2003
I don't mean that as a slam. I like Pretty Woman a lot, too. But this movie is my "cure for all ills" movie. The one I throw in the DVD player on rainy Sunday afternoons and crack out my best junk food. And the political setting seems to give it more meat.

Michael Douglas is perfect. Annette Benning is perfect (and I would give anything to look as beautiful as she does in that blue dress at the State Dinner). Michael J. Fox, Martin Sheen, Anna Devoure Smith. People being passionate about each other and about important issues and about doing the right thing. Everything about this movie lifts me up when I'm feeling down.

I'm not a liberal, and I'm not a conservative - I fall somewhere in the middle. My beliefs in gun control to not include "(getting) the guns". But this movie is so good - that I can look past the occasional differences in political views. Those views are presented in a smart, thoughtful and constructive manner - and I appreciate them even though they are not my own.

I enjoy this movie for what it is - a sweet, smart, funny movie set in one of the most "romantic" settings in the world - The White House.
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Sorkin's first foray into the West Wing
cardsrock8 July 2021
The writing is sharp, though you can tell Sorkin hadn't quite mastered his style. The story is actually pretty reasonable and makes for an interesting film. Michael Douglas is excellent as the president and you can see the model from which Sorkin would craft Josiah Bartlet. All in all, this is a decent diversion and I enjoyed most of it.
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Greatest movie speech ever
Calicodreamin10 January 2021
One of the greatest movie finale speeches ever, literal chills. The american president has always been a favorite of mine. The characters are well acted and quite lovely. The storyline is unique and has a good mix of heartfelt and comical. Endlessly rewatchable.
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A First Rate Film
timdalton0073 March 2009
Director Rob Reiner and Aaron Sorkin, fresh off their success with the film A Few Good Men, came up with this gem more then thirteen years ago. With a top notch cast and production values The American President is the continuation of an old Hollywood tradition of films where nobility wins out in the game of politics. While that might seem like a bad thing the fact is the film is all the better for it.

First off there's the cast. Michael Douglas gives one of his finest performances as President Andrew Shepherd. The same can be said of his love interest and co-star Annette Benning in her performance as lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade. Together they have a strong chemistry whether it be the film's comedic, romantic or dramatic moments.

Then there's the supporting cast. Martin Sheen, Anna Deavere Smith, Samantha Mathis, David Paymer and Michael J. Fox give fantastic performances as the White House staff with Sheen and Fox in particular getting moments to shine. Richard Dreyfuss gives a delicious performance as Presidential contender Bob Rumson. Even in the small roles the actors (like Joshua Malina and John Mahoney) give good performances.

The film's production values are just as strong as its cast. The White House sets are excellent and give the feeling of being in the real place. The same can be said of virtually all the sets in the film. Also of special mention is the score by Marc Shaiman, especially in the opening credits of the film.

Then there is the script by Arraon Sorkin. Sorkin's effortlessly blends together the elements of a good romantic comedy and a good political based film to create a hybrid of the two. Unlike other attempts at mixing comedy/satire with a political film that often end up failing to be successful as either (such as the more recent film Man of the Year for instance) here it works. In one scene you can have a speech about something political and have a romantic comedy scene the next. The result is that the styles don't clash but rather compliment each other nicely. It's easy to see where the genesis of Sorkin's later magnum opus The West Wing came from.

The American President is a first rate film. With its top notch performances, excellent production values and a first rate script it's hard to beat that. The only shame of the film is the fact it didn't any major awards because it definitely deserved to.
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Excellent comedy/romance/political film!
LebowskiT10007 December 2002
I'm not usually the kind of person that enjoys a political film, but I found this film to very interesting, very fun and very entertaining. Of course, this film is much more of a comedy/romance film than a political film, but nonetheless there are a great deal of political elements. Some of the political aspects were strange and confusing, but that's just the nature of politics, is it not?

The story is actually rather original (at least I think it is). It's basically about a widower president that decides it's time to move on with his life and pursue other opportunities (if you catch my drift). The story is very well done from start to finish and really has a lot of good things to say about politics, the media, relationships and what not.

All the cast members involved did a fantastic job. I'm not a huge fan of Michael Douglas (not really sure why) but he did a superb job and played a VERY likeable, fun president. Someone that you would really like to know. Martin Sheen also played an extraordinary Chief of Staff for the president and also played a very likeable guy. Michael J. Fox did an excellent job with a role that I didn't expect great things from. Michael deserves a great deal of credit for his role in this film. Annette Bening...WOW! She did a great job with her role and looks better than ever throughout the entire film. I really liked her character, she also played a very warm and likeable character. Samantha Mathis had a somewhat small role in the film, but nonetheless a very important one. She really did a great job with her role and also looks fantastic throughout the film. Finally, Richard Dreyfuss. He also played a very small role, but an extremely important role and did a great job. While he wasn't a very likeable character (he wasn't supposed to be liked), he played it perfectly. Some other great supporting cast members include David Paymer, Anne Haney, Nina Siemaszko, Wendie Malick, and John Mahoney.

I should also mention director Rob Reiner. This guy is just great, he really does a fantastic job directing his films. This is another great film to add to his already impressive list of credits.

I would definitely recommend this film to anyone that likes light-hearted comedies and/or just romantic comedies. This really is an excellent film and ought to be seen. I hope that you will enjoy the film as much as I did. Thanks for reading,

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Perhaps the Best Comedy in Three Decades; Moving, Human and Believable
silverscreen88820 March 2007
"The American President" was the source of the later dramatic television series success "The West Wing". Apparently, statist influencers in the U.S. have become so successful at warping the real by "spin" that many people could not understand this seminal film, especially those incompetent reviewers who masquerade as professional critics. It is by any standard of reason I suggest 1. authentic in its meticulously presented milieu, characters and dialogue, 2. an appealing classically romantic comedy and 3. a wonderfully satiric juxtaposition between the American--the self-responsible--qualities of even a president and his vulnerability to pseudo-religious moralizing attacks as he tries to access his individual rights in a nation gone constitutionally insane under the urging of Postmodernists. All this widower president wants at the beginning is a date with a feisty environmental lobbyist; later he wants her as a girl friend, and vice versa, with a a chance to explore their growing relationship. This simple human dignity is compromised as a right by the opposition party's leading candidate, who uses innuendo and false headlining to undermine the man's public popularity and threaten two vital bills both the president and the lobbyist are trying to get through a stone-walling Congress. Rob Reiner directs in a serious and lyrical way dialogue and character revelations that in lesser hands might have been slow or worse; in my judgment the pace never falters for an instant. Aaron Sorkin 's memorable script takes in issues, personalities, levels of relationship and supervision that I believe were both difficult and rewarding with uncommon precision and skill. As the "American"--individual, realist, pro- rights--president, Michael Douglas achieves award level simplicity and command at the same time, something which he had been growing toward for two decades. Only players with shorter roles--John Mahoney, and White House staffers--are really exactly right in their roles; but the clarity of the characters presented in the film's script is so strong, owing the the power of the central character and his categorical value of individualism, that sincere performances become exceptional. Annette Benning is attractive and passable as the lobbyist--first girl friend; Martin Sheen is acceptable as Douglas's aide; but no one is outstandingly good I claim nor unacceptable; their believability I suggest is produced by the ideas and values they are representing. Michael J. Fox's speech level is inadequate as the committed, immature aide; Samantha Mathis and Shawna Waldron and Leon Kodak, Anna Deavere Smith, Richard Dreyfuss, Gail Strickland, and many others get small telling moments; the film centers so well I claim on the president and his lady that all else become background, mosaic pieces in a larger picture, observing, relating to, or commenting on the main thrust of action--a president doing his job and asking his rights. This centrality leading to unforgettable scenes is a quality only the best films possess--"The Guns of Navarone", "The Fountainhead", "Gone With the Wind" and "Bend of the River", for instance. In a comedy, this is a rare achievement therefore. Marc Shaiman's music is unobtrusive and occasionally moving; Gloria Gresham's costumes and the production design by Lilly Kilvert aid the film's hard-won credibility. Cinematography by John Seale and Art Direction by John Warnke are outstandingly believable. I suggest the producers Charles Newirth, Rob Reiner, Barbara Maltby and Jeffrey Stott have achieved something as rare here as was achieved in "An Affait to Remember", "The Bridal Path", "You Came Along" and "Operation Petticoat" and other service-based idea-level satires--something lasting, emotionally satisfying and unusually profound for any genre.
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What Would Tyler and Wilson Say To This?
bkoganbing7 September 2011
Out of the 42 individuals who have become presidents two of them, John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson, had wives who died while they were in the White House and who courted and married women who became the second first ladies in their respective administrations. Both Julia Gardiner Tyler and Edith Bolling Galt Wilson were each remarkable first ladies in their own ways and Mrs. Wilson did become a minor issue in her husband's bid for a second term.

But none ever engendered the controversy shown here by President Michael Douglas's courtship of Annette Bening. The fictional Douglas is a widower like Tyler and Wilson and he meets and falls hard for an environmental lobbyist. When Bening spends the night in the White House and they do the deed there, their sex lives become campaign fodder for the opposition party in the person of Senate Minority Leader Richard Dreyfuss who is the likely candidate of the opposition.

The scenes between Douglas and Bening are quite tastefully done and they show that romance is not beyond the reach of the mature. Of course when you've got smarmy politicians like Dreyfuss ready to make it all sound dirty, sad to say that's all been done before. But when Tyler and Wilson were courting their women you didn't have the mass media and instant communication of today reporting everything down to the latest pelvic thrust. One wonders how things might have turned out for Tyler and Wilson had they had the media attention that President Douglas has in this film.

I actually think that Aaron Sorkin might have gotten some inspiration for The American President from Nebraska where back a few years earlier Governor Robert Kerrey was involved with actress Debra Winger. I still remember a certain New York Post columnist named Ray Kerrison getting all kinds of hot and bothered when Winger spent a night in the Governor's mansion in Lincoln, Nebraska the same way Dreyfuss is doing here. What bothered him the most is that no one seemed to care about the horrible moral transgressions being committed in the Governor's mansion.

Michael Sheen who would become an American President on a TV series created by Aaron Sorkin and Michael J. Fox are Douglas's two chief staff aides. Shawna Waldron has a nice performance as the President's daughter and she comes over like a real kid and a very unspoiled one at that considering where she's living.

The American President is a class and classy drama and you only wish more presidents would act like Douglas and Sheen in their respective fictional presidencies.
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good romance
enmussak20 December 2002
This film worked for the same reason the West Wing works... it humanizes the President. Yes, the most powerful man in the world has feelings and falls in love. I liked one reviewer's comment saying that this film is Capra-esque. It certainly is because of its overall feel-good aspect and optimism. I enjoyed this film, and Michael Douglas seldom disappoints me. 8/10.
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I love this film
Winnie-619 October 1998
This film sees the best acting from Michael Douglas (my God, he isn't a villain), Annette Bening (power woman), Michael J Fox (finally not a teen) and Martin Sheen (oh so amusing). This is such a warm film. It is innocent yet powerful. And the humour is second to none. Just fabulous.
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One of the best political films that has ever been done
walsh-2213 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
No offence to Michael Douglas but I'm not a fan of his movies but in The American President I thought he was brilliant and enjoyed watching him in the movie. He makes the character very charming, warm and compassionate.

This film was really the first to show the audience an insight into The White House and what it is like for the President, all the problems and dilemmas he has to go through and the expectations ordinary people have for their elected officials. In this film, Michael Douglas plays the President who has a daughter and has had to juggle his job with raising his daughter after his wife died and the public have been sympathetic to him but a threat comes along in the guise of Sydney Ellen Wade played by Annette Bening who Andrew Shepherd takes an interest in and wants to have a relationship with but soon the relationship is under scrutiny and everything from his and her pasts are used to undermine them.

What I find interesting about the film is that American schools teach their students about their government. I think the UK is lacking in this as there is no effort to teach kids about their government and as a result they don't care about politics and that is a shame.

The film is intelligent and yet Rob Reiner does it in such a way that anyone can understand what is being said and you don't need to have an degree to gasp what lies beneath the words.

Richard Dreyfuss plays a right pantomime villain in this, I found myself hissing at him every time he came on the screen and he really played him well as this smug, unscrupulous person who uses muck to discredit Shepherd's character but can't discredit the president's policies.

Annette Bening is just great in this. She is funny and beautiful and has some of the most amusing scenes. Scenes such as her trying to walk out the wrong door in the oval office and not knowing the President was on the phone and her thinking it was a prank.

I have to say I love Michael J. Fox in this, Personally, I think he had some of the best lines in the film. His character looks up to the President and you see him wanting his idol to speak up and tell the American people the way it is and not the way Rumson is telling it.

Martin Sheen is the President's adviser in this and then went on to become the President in The West Wing.

A fine cast, inspiring writing especially at the end and a talented director made this film so popular with the audience.
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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.
Anonymous_Maxine6 August 2002
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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Better than apple pie
werners25 May 2000
This Reiner flick is a gem of the nineties. In its genre probably the best thing to hit the screens since Capra rounded them up over half a century ago.

The story itself is nothing extraordinary. Set in Washington it is a simple tale of love between lobbyist Sidney Wade and widow President Andrew Sheperd. Flung into love they both encounter obstacles as both opposition and political differences tear them apart. No need to worry though, all is well that ends well. And Reiner is not the one to slip one on us.

What makes this film shine above most are not the development of characters or the underdeveloped political statements. Its the achievement of giving audiences 90 minutes of pure bliss. Douglas is lovable as president, Beattys spouse makes you jealous as always, J. Fox never misses an opportunity to display huge talent and Dreyfuss is just the kind of guy you love to hate. Add a dose of victorious political correctness and top it of with a final speech that raises the hair on any kinds of neck but rednecks, and you got your evening made.

Enjoy !
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The American President
JoBloTheMovieCritic23 May 2020
9/10 - smart, entertaining, and often funny, this is this best movie about the Commander-in-Chief
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Get Out The Barf Bags!
ccthemovieman-117 November 2005
This is so Liberal it's sickening. I mean, I've come to expect a little left-wing propaganda in most films from Hollywood, but to this degree?!

Two hours of Liberal preaching are capped off in the U.S. President's final speech of the movie, in which he proclaims how "proud" he is to be a card-carrying member of the ACLU!!! Ha ha. I guess we all supposed to be cheering at that point. Personally, I reached for the nearest barf bag.

This movie is simply director Rob Reiner's propaganda piece for his agenda. Being a "card-carrying" member of the ultra-Left People For the American Way, Reiner shows us a charming, loving portrait of a President that somehow reminds us of Bill Clinton, if he were a bachelor.

Can you imagine if someone was this heavy-handed on the Right and tried to make a similar movie?? Never happen. For one thing, the critics would tear it apart, which they didn't dare do with this piece of slick celluloid brainwashing.
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American Presidency 101
joekay13 January 2004
"The American President" can stand alone for its cinematic charms, with sharp script and strong performances, and also for its ability to connect to a typical moviegoer. This is one movie I can remember that really brings the daily goings-on in the White House seem like daily grind rather than grand drama where huge decisions are made and enormous events occur all the time--granted whatever is decided and happens in the White House is indeed huge and enormous, but the film doesn't inflate it to some elitist/exclusive point of view.

And while the movie can be enjoyed purely for its cinematic value, what I do appreciate about this film is that it does make good, valid points about American politics and the presidency of the United States. President Andrew Sheppard (played by Michael Douglas) engages in several conversations and even arguments about what it means to be in his position and how that affects the way he serves his constituents, the American public. His last speech rings true; besides his views that favor obviously to the left of the political spectrum, he makes honest comments about how politicians win elections and how that affects their ability to do their job.

I consider this movie to be a basic cinematic course in understanding the American Presidency and political elements that invariably surround it. It may come off as a left-wing, liberally biased film, but it makes no confusion about the fact that whether they are Democrats or Republicans, politicians have their flaws and unscrupulous methods of keeping their position of power, including the President himself. It is one of my favorite movies, and I give it a 10/10.

joe k.
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A wonderful film for these times
mgoodlan19 September 2020
Warning: Spoilers
First: Michael J. Fox steals this movie. Louis' dialogue toward the end, when he lectures the president, is to me the heart of this movie.

You can tell this is a work of fiction because this is a president with backbone, willing to scrap a major item on his agenda and redo it. That kind of political courage does not exist in these modern days.

I've watched this movie several times in the past year, and while I think it's very well done, it also makes me sad. Sad that we don't have people with this kind of courage and values leading our nation.
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if only I could purge this film from my memory...
dr_foreman5 April 2004
"The American President" can't decide whether it wants to be a syrupy, fairy-tale romance or an anti-Republican rant. The film ends up with a foot in both camps, which makes for a very awkward and uneven tone indeed.

Though the current administration scares me silly, I used to have quite strong conservative leanings, and I felt patronized and irritated by this movie's constant, simplistic criticism of right-wing values. It attempts to defend Clinton by presenting a "sanitized" version of that particular President. If you're going to defend Clinton, then REALLY defend him; don't do "Clinton lite" with a "lite" version of his scandals. The Republican characters are all, as you might expect, dumb as bricks, and it's up to Michael Douglas to call a press conference and blast them all for being prejudiced fearmongers. Way to go, Michael.

Now, I don't mind political commentary in a film, if it's at all well done. But this film stereotypes liberals and conservatives alike, and has about the sophistication level you'd expect from a political treatise written by a p****d-off 15-year-old.

The movie is hypocritical, too, because it creates a very passive and flighty character in the form of Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening, annoying as all Hell in this movie). Wade takes a deferential, reverential, and generally submissive posture towards the President, which certainly undermines this film's claims to political/social Enlightenment. The woman's a chattering nitwit who supports that most popular of causes - environmentalism - instead of expressing her opinions on a really controversial issue (like abortion, for example). In short, she's about as feminist as low-riding jeans, and her attachment to the President becomes a sort of Disney-like tale of wish fulfillment based entirely on a powerful man. Eeww.

Believe it or not, this was my ex-girlfriend's favorite movie (nice to know that good taste continues to thrive in this day and age, eh?). When I complained that the politics alienated me, she screeched back that it was the story she liked, not the message. What story? What message? This whole thing can be boiled down to the statement: "It would be nice to date a Democrat President." And it would be death to date a Republican one, presumably. Pathetic.
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Doesn't get any better......
geisesanja25 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
.....than this, despite the three f-bombs that are dropped in the last half hour of the film. And the emotional situation that was taking place, makes it understandable. THIS is what we need for a President. Especially when Louis, an AWESOME performance by Michael J Fox, tells the president off. Why? Because, as a citizen, this is HIS President! The president in this country works for us. And guess what the problems are? Crime and the environment. And this movie was made in 1995!!! almost 30 years ago. Annette Bening is Sydney, the President's girlfriend, who is a powerful lobbyist. She is very passionate about her job. But then their jobs clash. In the end the President's last words to Sydney are, "Well, it turns out, I've got a rose garden." Michael Douglas, if only we were all still 30 younger. Anyway, you get the picture, he does the right thing in the end. If you haven't seen this film, see it. Oh and a shout out to Martin Sheen, as the Cheif of staff. Please! See it. It's sort of a Cinderella story, and yes, it's fiction. But dot dot!!!!😔😔😔
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Tennessee Meathead Vs. Radical Republicans
jldmp14 February 2006
By now, you know the abject leftist political content...consider how that narrative exists as a movie. Not this movie you paid to watch, the real-life movie played out in U.S. politics every day.

The preaching to the choir (the movie audience) starts right away. The battle lines are drawn in the middle act; the hero is accused of a peccadillo via the most 'inflammatory' vision his enemies can dig up.

Hollywood knows that to promote its agenda, it has to fight for control of that 'movie'--this is ongoing. What better way to bolster leftist values than have the "most powerful man in the free world" star in a date movie, get the girl, humiliate Hollywood's opponents, and save America itself? It is consummated through the President's speech to the government (the press corps; Hollywood believes the media rule us-- here they hang on every word in rapture). You just watched "Tennessee Johnson".

Reiner tries to conflate all this with deal. The 'numbers' have swung decidedly against Hollywood in recent years. Today, Tennessee Meathead would be impeached.
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