A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Irresistible is an election comedy directed by Jon Stewart that pokes fun at both of the United States' main political parties. It takes place after Donald Trump's victory over Hilary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race and is about the cutthroat, manipulative behavior of political strategists (Steve Carell, Rose Byrne) who will do whatever it takes to win an election of any size. The idea here is that the D.C. political operatives are vile -- they curse (expect frequent use of "f--k" and lots more), argue viciously, and use crude sexual language, as well as treat locals condescendingly. The small-town Wisconsin residents are portrayed as kind but not rubes or hicks. Characters drink at a bar, and one smokes/vapes. A couple makes out in an over-the-top way. The film has a notable lack of diversity.
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What's the story?
Steve Carell stars in IRRESISTIBLE as Gary Zimmer, a top Democratic strategist who finds a secret weapon in his campaign strategy for getting retired veteran Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) elected as mayor of a rural Wisconsin town. Rose Byrne co-stars as Gary's conservative counterpart, Faith Brewster, who fights him tooth and nail in what becomes a high-profile, hugely important election with the highest stakes for their respective parties.
Is it any good?
Jon Stewart's directorial chops in comedy are just as sharp as his delivery a decade ago on The Daily Show. Irresistible is a kick in the pants. Stewart is a master of blending reality and parody in the political news world, and his feature comedy writing and directing debut is laugh-out-loud funny, even if you're watching alone. What's slipped a bit is his ability to make ground-breaking, earth-shattering revelations. Political operatives are sleazy? Yep, we know. Small town folk are nice? Uh-huh, nothing new. While the movie's story takes some surprising turns, the big message has been out there for a while: The U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which made it OK for corporations to contribute as much as they want to political campaigns, has mucked up the ways that campaigns are run, to no benefit of voters. Many viewers are likely to react with a nod, a yup, and a tsk-tsk, but Irresistible is unlikely to spur the activism that Stewart seems to be hoping to stir from both parties. The interview that runs during the last part of the movie's end credits is the only substantial reveal, and even then, it's news most of us already know.
Stewart is known to be a friend of those who identify as liberal, but, if anything, he's always tried to stand with reason. Here, he gives both "sides" of the United States a reason to laugh both at themselves (an excerpt from a real NPR piece is on-the-nose hysterical) and at each other, and he clearly wants voters to see that no one benefits from the way modern campaigns are funded. Greg is a very Carell character: obnoxious, arrogant, and successful despite his obvious shortcomings. Byrne has long shown that she can play terrible people with such flair that you can't imagine anyone doing it better -- and she's in peak performance as GOP strategist Faith Brewster, who has the look of Hope Hicks, the style of Ivanka Trump, and the fangs of Kellyanne Conway. While Gen Z is quickly becoming the most politically active generation since the teens of the late '60s, they're also less familiar with Stewart's work and less likely to bite on this concept, especially because it doesn't even touch on foreign influence in U.S. elections. Plus, the film is coming out at a time when teens are primarily focused on social justice. Stewart delivers an important message, but young people may be less likely to listen to it when they see greater issues at stake -- or, for that matter, when they don't see themselves reflected on-screen.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Irresistible's perspective on the U.S. political process. Does it offer any hope for change? What do you think the filmmakers want you to take away from the film? To take action? Will you?
Did you notice the lack of diversity in the movie's characters? How did that affect your engagement with the movie's story and messages? Why is representation in the media -- and diversifying the media we consume -- important? Try these resources for talking about race and racism with kids.
Do you consider any of the characters role models? Why or why not?
Have you heard about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision known as "Citizens United"? If so, how does it impact U.S. elections? If not, how could you find out more?
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