Matinee Price Plus Snacks
I don’t normally get into politics, and I will come right out and say that movies like Dave and The American President work on me because I am a liberal and I am an idealist. That said, a film like The Contender should not be maligned or neglected due to my political ignorance OR my political leanings. As anyone knows, the scenario depicted in this film could happen to any party member, at any level of government, so to reduce any discussion of the topic down to ideologies or whatever is nonsense.
OK. Joan Allen is great. She’s perfect – she’s serious enough, attractive enough, not-attractive enough, pleasant and genuine and clever and closed enough. President Jeff Bridges (an unlikely candidate for president in any political climate) is, despite his Casual Fridays approach to the job, a good match for her (she’s in the running for vice president due to a death). Together they are almost believable as people in the highest levels (or potential levels) of power, yet the point of the film is that yes, our Great Leaders and also our Demon Leaders (as administrations come and go) are all basically people, who eat and laugh and manipulate and have coitus with their spouses and hang out and make important decisions. The point of the movie is that people deserve privacy, they deserve to make their own judgments about how their past relates to their present, and who better to tell the tale of public opinion directing lives than Hollywood actors? If Pee Wee Herman – no, if Richard Jewell – no, if Robert Downey Jr. were up for vice-president he wouldn’t have gotten a grilling like Allen’s character got.
The movie is about fairness, it’s about privacy, it’s about shrewdness in politics, it’s about witch hunts, it’s about dignity and pride and service to one’s country and it’s also about sticking to your guns, no matter what. It’s impressive, if flawed. Allen is the same strong woman she was in The Crucible but in a modern society that strength can work against her, can trigger a modern day witch hunt, just as it did in the 17th century. Her character is introduced in such a way to force the audience to have an immediate opinion about her, and we are given the whole movie to plot out her strategy first in our own minds and then see how she does it – and it will always come down to strength of character. Heck, I’d vote for her *because* of what she is accused of doing, just because it makes her more human. The 1950’s ideal of the magical robot president who doesn’t use the bathroom and has absolute omniscience and perfection is ludicrous. I think all people should be held to higher standards of conduct. Why is it not OK for a president to philander but it is OK for a senator to do so? Or a garbage carrier? The public eye?
Not unlike many similar past roles, Gary Oldman is weird, creepy, and never fully retaliated against as much as you personally, emotionally, might want. Christian Slater plays a Representative from Delaware who moves around this game in ways that frankly baffled me, but let my companion see the whole layout of the film. I blame myself. But Slater is interesting because he is so unreadable – is he going to be the baboon-hearted sweet florist shop guy we all cheer for, or the black-hearted “suicide is cool” guy who gets blown up by his own bomb? (Please refer to Slater’s filmography if I lost you here, just wanted to give the politicos a taste of their own medicine) It’s Joan Allen’s movie, no doubt about that, and it’s worth seeing almost exclusively just to see her – and it’s an interesting story. I was emotionally involved, entertained, and I had something to talk about afterwards eating. A round success!
MPAA Rating R for strong sexual content and language.
Release date 10/13/00
Time in minutes 126
Director Rod Lurie