There is so little going on in world of government and politics these days that I found myself looking for a fix in fiction. (Not really. It was only after I'd watched this movie and read this book that I realized that they shared some themes.)
Irresistible is the new Jon Stewart move that satirizes the world politics. Steve Carell plays a Democratic campaign operative who, devastated by the results of the 2016 election, decides he is going to revive the party's fortunes by getting involved in a small-town Wisconsin mayoral race. The lure is retired Marine Col. Jack Hastings, who he believes is "a church-going Bernie Sanders with better bone density," and who he believes can help redefine the party.
But when Carell's character starts making waves in the small town election, the Republicans - not wanting to give an inch - send in their own operative, played by Rose Byrne. From that point, the game is on … the movie is all about money and one-upmanship and about how politics ultimately is seen as a game by those who play it most ruthlessly.
Irresistible doesn't have the sharp elbows of Stewart's years on "The Daily Show," isn't as accomplished as a Preston Sturges effort might've been, and not as deeply perceptive as might have been expected. But I have to admit that I enjoyed it … there are enough laugh lines and insights to make the movie work. In the end, when the plot takes turns that Stewart may have seen as being hopeful, I actually found the movie to be surprisingly cynical … and maybe it says more about me than Stewart, but that's when I found the movie to be at its best.
One other note. Since Irresistible was opening during the pandemic, when movie theaters were largely closed, it was available on streaming services for $19.95. It is, in fact, a perfect streaming movie - not too expensive (certainly cheaper than going to a theater), and an easy hang on the sofa with a glass of wine. Plus, after Mrs. Content Guy and I watched it, our kids watched it at different times - so it ended up being a bargain.
The other fiction with which I engaged this week was "The Hellfire Club," a novel from a couple of years ago by CNN anchor Jake Tapper. This political thriller follows freshman Congressman Charlie Marder as he navigates the ins and outs of American politics circa 1954 - Tapper shows off a bit with his knowledge of the Capitol and the times, but it is never less than fascinating. While Marder is fictional, he bumps into all sorts of real-life characters - Richard Nixon, Roy Cohn, Estes Kefauver, Lyndon Johnson, and Jack, Robert and Jackie Kennedy.
One can tell that Tapper is having a lot of fun when he shows us what like was like in 1954 - within the first few pages, a pregnant woman is shown drinking and smoking! - but I have to wonder if he is as deeply cynical about politics and power as the book implies. I wonder if he has more adventures planned for Charlier Marder - it will be interesting to see how he views not just the character, but the milieu milieu in which he finds himself.
Check out "The Hellfire Club." Lots of fun.