Jon Stewart’s “Irresistible” is toothless, out-of-touch political satire

IRRESISTIBLE Chris Cooper stars as Jack Hastings and Steve Carell as Gary Zimmer in IRRESISTIBLE, a Focus Features release. Credit: Daniel McFadden / Focus Features

The former Daily Show host’s sophomore film is a dated, centrist screed that fundamentally misunderstands our current political moment.

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When someone outs themselves as a dinosaur, it can be fun to watch. But when that someone was once a person who, despite their flaws, became the one we turned to for razor sharp satire, it’s depressing. Then again, when they make a movie as insulting and just outright terrible as Irresistible, it’s enraging.

Make no mistake, Jon Stewart, who both writes and directs, isn’t as out of touch as he clearly is due to his age. In the entertainment industry, aging is mostly something women do when men start considering them unfuckable. No, it’s because, in a time when Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee are still doing some of the best work of their careers, Stewart’s politics are stuck in 2006, no matter how much he acknowledges our current moment in the opening of Irresistible.

It turns out, the enemy isn’t us, it’s them. Them as in those pesky elites in politics and media who can’t relate to the fundamentally decent people in American’s heartland. Stewart is eager to satirize a concept he likewise clearly believes in, but it’s rather difficult when almost no one in the small, viciously stereotypical Wisconsin town has much of a personality (including a retired Marine colonel played by Chris Cooper, whose suitability as a politician becomes the lynchpin of the plot). When Steve Carell’s arrogant, entitled, disdainful Democratic political strategist Gary Zimmer comes to town to assist in a local election, you almost expect the residents to chase him out with pitchforks and hay bales, because why not?

IRRESISTIBLE
Credit: Daniel McFadden / Focus Features

That Zimmer and his ilk would be one of the most grating things about this movie is a given, especially when Stewart goes out of his way to depict Zimmer and his Republican counterpart Faith Brewster (you read that right; Rose Byrne deserves so much better) as overtly deceitful, and even top Democratic officials as racist and exploitative in that old “aren’t both parties awful?” argument. You’d think Stewart could accomplish this without demeaning people of color, but he caricatures them about as viciously as he believes those in power do, even if he seems to believe that brown people are more apt to participate in their dehumanization.

It’s part of a general pattern of attacking the very people Irresistible claims to care about most. How else to explain a movie where a child born outside of marriage is referred to as a “bastard” not just once in a news report, but again by a character, in case it was somehow missed? 

It doesn’t take much to guess that the Wisconsinites Irresistible clearly reveres most aren’t going to do much better, and you don’t have to be from there (like me) to know that there’s more to the state besides Madison, cows, and cheese. Just how bad is it? Gary meets his love interest Diana (Mackenzie Davis) while her arm is up a cow’s ass, and the town is so behind that there’s no Wi-Fi in any coffee shop or local place except the school.

Irresistible doesn’t seem to realize that flaws are a gift, not merely a curse one places on elites.

Irresistible doesn’t seem to realize that flaws are a gift, not merely a curse one places on elites. Yet no one in small-town Wisconsin seems capable of them, instead spending their time proving how good they are, right up until an ending that’s at least surprising. In Stewart’s eyes, every vice belongs to the upper classes, who are so cartoonish that Faith actually licks the side of Gary’s face at the end of what passes for sexually charged banter in this movie.

Maybe such a lack of accountability, which places the blame for racism, sexism, and every other ill in American life at the feet of an election process which now includes Super PACs, wouldn’t be so offensive if we weren’t at such a crucial moment, where electing a Democratic leader might just save more than a few lives. 

Stewart isn’t incorrect about the outsize influence money has in elections, but I doubt where we are now can be blamed wholly on the media and politicians not knowing how to relate to so-called “real” Americans. His regressive vision is just premiering at a time when looking inward rather than outward might just hold the key to saving the country that Stewart’s film distorts almost beyond recognition.

Irresistible comes to VOD June 26th.

Irresistible Trailer:

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