Irresistible Review: Simply resistible

Missing Jon Stewart's political commentary won't save the film.

(Image: © Focus Features)

"Broken" isn't a strong enough word for the United States political system. Yet, it continues on election cycle after election cycle. "We smack each other in the press and we don't print retractions," but, in reality, Washington's on no one's side.

Even those of us who have been extremely politically active since a young age can't deny the fact that our democracy is held up by the fractured and crumbling pillars of a two-party system and outdated "safeguards" like the electoral college. In that regard, it doesn't matter what your political party is: it's failing the American people.

It's that very fact that Jon Stewart's Irresistible tries to call out. But had the film stuck to acknowledging how damaging the system is to Americans, it may have been a much better film. Since the flick dropped last Friday, we're gonna talk spoilers in this one.

Warning, some spoilers ahead!! Don't want to know what happens before you watch? Click away now!

The premise is pretty simple — albeit deeply uncomfortable. After recovering from the devastating loss in 2016, Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) is looking for his next project. Though embittered by the loss, the former campaign manager is ready to take a chance. That chance comes to him in the form of one Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper). The passionate ex-Marine Colonel is caught on video giving a speech about how unacceptable it is to expect those on welfare to require a government issued ID to qualify. He even goes so far as to point out that no one was checking their IDs when the town flooded and they were out there throwing sandbags with everyone else.

Seeing an opportunity to swing the next round of elections in the Democrat's favor, Zimmer rushes to small-town Wisconsin to persuade Hastings to run for mayor.

Things quickly escalate, resulting in Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) coming to town to support the republican incumbent. The two campaign managers fight viciously throughout the film, only to find out in the end that they've been duped. Diana Hastings (Mackenzie Davis) made it all up as a last-ditch effort to save her dying town. She knew that campaigns made millions. All they had to do was funnel those millions into the town rather than some show-boat political race.


Source: Focus Features (Image credit: Focus Features)

At its best moments, Irresistible holds a humiliating mirror up to those who proudly proclaim allegiance to one side or another without the ability to recognize the respective flaws. It shows us the most embarrassing parts of ourselves. Because, yes, at the end of the day, it is a numbers game. It's a broken system that we can't fix during an election year, but election years seem to be the only time people care. That broken system helps create cynics out of all of us, especially when the options made available on a presidential level are a monster or a monster who's going to get less people killed.

Many of us are part of a broken system we despise with absolutely no idea how to fix it. The film will make you feel an appropriate amount of embarrassment about that, no question.

It will also spend its time pulling away from all of that with tacky jokes and weird shock-jock tactics that are solely meant to make the viewer balk. There's a scene where Rose Byrne's character inexplicably licks Steve Carell's face? For some reason Carell's character can't eat properly? I will concede that Debra Messing has a cameo that does manage to be an exception to this rule. Her scene is just as cringey, but it's cringey with a purpose!

There are two perspectives of small towns. There's the romanticizing of them from people who've never glimpsed one before, and the understanding that they're not nearly as idyllic as they seem from those of us who have actually lived in them. Small communities ain't quant. They're often racist hotbeds wrapped in a white picket fence. Irresistible paints the town in a kinder light to serve its narrative, but it also does so with a white brush.

The film does have some Black characters, and a couple minorities are seen here and there, but each one is a pawn. Walt, the town's sole Black man (who doesn't appear to be credited anywhere on IMdB), is used as a way to call out the whiteness of rural America, but not in a way that has any effect. Gary's assistant (played by Sasha Morfaw) isn't even given a name.

Meanwhile, the immigrants we meet in the recording of Jack's passionate speech are never seen in the town again despite its small size and the fact that everyone knows each other. Though the intention of his film wasn't to add commentary on race, it's very much a part of the conversation he's trying to have. And its exclusion is evident.

Though billed as a dramedy, I can't think of a single moment in Irresistible that made me laugh. If cringe-y stuff gives you a giggle, you may have a better reaction. The movie does have a few shining moments, a few glimmers where it feels like it's making a point, but in the end it feels as empty as its final "resist" call to action.

Amelia Emberwing

Amelia is an entertainment Streaming Editor at IGN, which means she spends a lot of time analyzing and editing stories on things like Loki, Peacemaker, and The Witcher. In addition to her features and editorial work, she’s also a member of both the Television Critics Association and Critics Choice. A deep love of film and television has kept her happily in the entertainment industry for 7 years.