Having an idea and then executing that idea are two VERY different things…
While Irresistible has a really strong idea at its core, it suffers from a very uneven script that really doesn’t show an inkling of what it’s trying to do until well into the 3rd act of the film and it exposes Jon Stewart and the weakness in his armor, as a long narrative storyteller he’s just not that strong.
After the Democrat’s top strategist Gary (Steve Carell) sees a video of a retired Marine Colonel (Chris Cooper) standing up for the rights of his town’s undocumented workers, Gary believes he has found the key to winning back the Heartland. However, when the Republicans counter him by sending in his brilliant nemesis Faith (Rose Byrne), what started out as a local race quickly becomes an out-of-control and hilarious fight for the soul of America.
Make no mistake that there’s some genuine meat on the bone in Irresistible as Stewart makes some genuine points about the current political system in America but as a film it’s incredibly uneven filled with characters that we’re just not sure if we’re supposed to like or not with a third act revel that lands over our heads like a lead balloon that actually would have been more interesting if we had been on the swerve the entire time.
As we saw on his first directorial effort; Rosewater back in 2014 Jon Stewart is fairly competent behind the camera in telling a story because Irresistible certainly looks OK and has some genuine flow to it as he gets deeper and deeper into this story of how politics in America are getting more and more akin to the wild west but he really loses focus because he’s not sure if he’s doing a rom-com, a scathing political satire, social commentary on the state and the divisiveness of politics or all of the above.
At least with Rosewater he had the road map of the book to work from, here this is pure screenplay and to say that it’s uneven, unfocused and a little messy would be an understatement. Stewart is trying to drive home a message about the ridiculous division’s and use of money in American politics which is one that is worth making…problem is he doesn’t get to it until about 20 min before the movie is over and ultimately clubs the audience over the head with this concept as bluntly as he can. Quite frankly it makes for something a little condescending that is filled with characters that really don’t have any focus because as we’re getting invested in our primary leads, he just pulls the rug out from the audience and makes the other players more important. He can’t pick a lane in all this and it really shows as the characters only exist to drive one idea, which he pulls out from under us to make something else.
He wrote and directed this film with the sensibility that he’s smarter than all of us and he knows it. If he had let us in on the swerve of the story a little earlier we could have appreciated the entire arc of the narrative and given us a chance to get invested in these characters…most of whom we’re actually pretty terrible people and not worth our time.
Steve Carell leads this ensemble and while we start kind of liking him the film slowly devolves into the fact that we don’t and probably never should. At least the indomitable Rose Byrne knows how to play the hateful comedy in all of these situations but Carell as our lead was actually not getting us engaged in the film. It had a strong ensemble as Mackenzie Davis, Chris Cooper, and Topher Grace round it all out but they didn’t get that much actually work to do as we all looked for someone to get invested in anything they were doing.
Ultimately, there’s some genuine satire here in Irresistible but he just didn’t know how to execute it as it mashed up in a half rom-com, half social commentary. You can tell what he WANTED to do, but too many of the elements are thrown all across the room. Eating a hamburger that is in all of its separate pieces across different rooms of the house isn’t quite the same as sitting down and eating a hamburger. Irresistible has the right ingredients, but it doesn’t look like want it wants to be.