In a remarkable turn-of-events, the result of the presidential election comes down to one man's vote.In a remarkable turn-of-events, the result of the presidential election comes down to one man's vote.In a remarkable turn-of-events, the result of the presidential election comes down to one man's vote.
An older, dumpier, and shabbier Kevin Costner is the best part of the film. Costner is a star and that shows here. Even the grunge that is his costume in almost every scene can't disguise his charisma. Costner's voice has not aged and he uses it to great effect, especially in a final speech.
The film draws laughs by parodying our two major political parties, with a Democratic presidential candidate starring in the funniest anti-abortion TV commercial ever made (no doubt its competition was slim, but it is very funny) and a Republican presidential candidate touting his party's tender concern for the environment.
These excellent scenes make you wish that the movie had gone deeper. It doesn't, though. It veers off into dead-end soap opera subplots about Costner's daughter's boyfriend from school and her attempt to live with her estranged mother (Mare Winningham, in a role that should have ended up on the editing room floor, as it contributes nothing to the film.) The casting wasn't great. The two presidential candidates and their aids end up being cardboard cut-out stereotypes of Machiavellian evil (Stanley Tucci) and compromise (Nathan Lane). Kelsey Grammar and Dennis Hopper, as the candidates, never transcend their "Frasier" and "Easy Rider" personas. Other actors, perhaps unknowns, should have been cast in these two key roles.
Paula Patton, the woman who played what would have been the Barbara Stanwyck role in the Frank Capra movie, was pretty as a little doll and a complete bore. This is part of a pattern in today's Hollywood; female leads must have the perfectly perky looks of a plastic doll; there's no need for them to be talented. Male leads, like Costner, can be beat-up, and slovenly, but must be talented. Patton's role, that of the desperate, sharp, female reporter who gains inside knowledge of a national story, is underwritten, and she does nothing with it. It's a dead-end, and that's a shame. It makes me want to rewatch "Meet John Doe" in which Stanwyck worked so well as the female reporter.
Overall, though, this movie is better than much else at the multiplex, and it at least ventures into the world of ideas.
- Aug 3, 2008