Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart makes his directorial debut with the charming political comedy Irresistible.
Steve Carell plays Gary, a slick Democratic Party operative in Washington, D.C. He's captivated by a viral video of a Wisconsin Marine vet (Chris Cooper) challenging his town's mayor at a town hall. Gary senses an opportunity to reclaim some of the rural, working-class voters the Democrats have lost over the years and offers to help the ex-Marine run for mayor. Soon, a Republican operative (Rose Byrne) is in town to help fund the existing mayor's campaign.
Irresistible's biggest thematic concern is how the American political system has devolved into a fundraising arms race between two sides and how the media coverage of these races encourages bitter, angry partisanship. Stewart's script pokes fun at both political parties. In today's hyper-politicized climate, that might strike some reviewers as a flaw, but the truth is, both parties deserve satire and mockery. Stewart's approach is humanist, and that makes it more likely that his message about the broken nature of campaign finance and the 24/7 news cycle will find the highest number of sympathetic ears. There are a few moments when the script resorts to speechifying, but, thankfully, those are few and far between.
Stewart is greatly assisted by his cast. Cooper is one of America's most underrated actors, and he does strong work here. Byrne is an extraordinarily gifted comic actress who finds a good vehicle for her talents in Irresistible. Carell's inherent likability helps keep viewers following along with Gary, even as he behaves badly.