Dennis suggests Primary Colors (in Comedy). My prescription for those suffering from election withdrawal is this thinly-veiled depiction of the first (Bill) Clinton campaign. I think the highest compliment I can pay this movie is that it would be as compelling, funny, and, ultimately, heartbreaking even if there had never been someone named Bill Clinton. The actors are uniformly outstanding with John Travolta giving the best performance of his career (and one of the few I can tolerate) as the smiling, savvy, debauched idealist Jack Stanton who, with his bottomless charisma and the support of a brilliant campaign staff, succeeds in overcoming his own weaknesses in order to, well, you know how it turns out. Emma Thompson was an inspired choice as his long-suffering but no-one-to-mess-with future First Lady, and the supporting cast is absolutely pitch-perfect. There’s Billy Bob Thornton’s James Carville manqué, stealing every scene as a self-described ‘redneck’ political strategist. Kathy Bates will rip your heart out as the disgraced, unbalanced ‘fixer’ brought back in to do the Stantons’ dirty work and, unfortunately, to embody the Clintons’ pal Vince Foster. Maura Tierney and Larry
Hagman are great in their small roles. And young British actor Adrien Lester (you might recognize him from the series ‘Hustle’), as the George Stephanopolous-style young idealist lured warily into the Stantons’ orbit is our surrogate as he (accused by Thornton’s pol as suffering from ‘galloping TB- true believerism’) allows himself to be charmed, not just by Stanton, or the promise of power, but by the soulcrushing belief that active idealism must be fatally compromised in American politics, is a heartbreaking portrait of just what that system demands. Throw in assured, witty direction from old pro Mike Nichols and even an evocative score and you’ve got a supremely entertaining and thought-provoking movie. As we stand on the lip of a hopeful new era in US history, with a charismatic new leader to project all of those hopes on, it’s useful to be reminded of the sacrifices, compromises, and dealmaking necessary to get there. I wish you well, Mr. Obama, and, as a galloping TB sufferer my own self, I’ll be watching.