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Posts Tagged ‘The Campaign’
This weekend Jessica Chastain stars in the political thriller Miss Sloane. The title refers to the lobbyist main character but the film could easily have been titled Drain the Swamp.
Made before Donald Trump became president-elect, it only takes about 20 seconds before the word “trump” crops up in the dialogue. He’s never mentioned by name, but this look at “the most morally bankrupt profession since faith healing” paints exactly the ugly picture of behind-the-scenes machinations that Trump railed against on the campaign trail.
Chastain is Elizabeth Sloane, a sleep-deprived D.C. lobbyist “at the forefront of a business with a terrible reputation.” She’ll represent anyone, it seems, except the gun lobby, who offer her a lucrative contract, only to be laughed at and rejected.
Soon after she leaves her firm — one of the biggest in the country — to join a small, scrappy group who aim to whip up support for a bill that will demand background checks for all gun owners.
It’s a new hot-button peek behind the curtain of a political process, but Hollywood has been making Drain the Swamp movies for years.
The explosive Advise and Consent is based on former New York Times congressional correspondent Allen Drury’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the ratification of a secretary of state and the dirty little secrets people in public life must keep hidden. Political battle lines are drawn as a full frontal attack is launched on the character and credentials of the new nominee.
Director Otto Preminger almost pulled off one of the great casting coups of the 1960s when he offered civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. a role in Advise and Consent. The mercurial director thought King would be perfect for the role of a southern senator, despite the fact that no African Americans were serving in Senate at the time. King gave the offer some thought, but declined fearing the backlash and possible harm to the civil right movement.
More recently, in The Ides of March George Clooney (who also directed) played a Democratic Party candidate; the kind of guy who would make the top of Bill O’Reilly’s head pop off. He’s pro-ecology, anti-oil. He wants to tax the rich and legalize gay marriage. If he leans any further left he’ll topple over.
Although Clooney has spoken out about many of these topics in real life, he didn’t make a left-wing film. Instead he made a warts-and-all political movie about dirty dealings on the campaign trail.
The first hour is good stuff, great acting from Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman and a fascinating, if occasionally dry look at life in the political fast lane. Then comes the blackmail, the meetings in darkened stairwells and double-crossing journalists.
Finally The Campaign, a comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as incumbent congressmen, begins with a quote from former presidential hopeful Ross Perot: “War has rules. Mud wrestling has rules. Politics has no rules.”
Neither does the movie; no rules or boundaries. These candidates go beyond the usual name-calling — “He looks like Osama Bin Laden” — to dirty tricks that would make Tricky Dick blush. It’s a through-the-looking glass-vision of how politics works that features ambition, greed, corruption and even a candidate who punches a baby.
You can tell Will Ferrell has a new movie coming out because he’s doing the darndest things.
On March 12 he played for ten Major League Baseball teams in five spring training games in one day. Since then he’s roasted Justin Bieber, walked red carpets at South By Southwest, dressed as a leprechaun with David Letterman, appeared in snack cake queen Little Debbie drag on The Tonight Show and traded barbs with Jon Stewart while wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with dozens of pictures of Zack Galifianakis.
He’s pulling out all the stops to make sure everyone knows Get Hard, his comedy about a rich man who hires a coach (Kevin Hart) to prep him for prison, opens this weekend.
A few years ago I landed in the middle of one of Ferrell’s outlandish publicity stunts.
In July 2012 he was stumping for The Campaign, a political satire co-starring Zack Galifianakis. The hot-and-steamy Toronto summer afternoon began with the actors riding down Yonge Street, throwing out campaign buttons to passers-by until they arrived at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Inside I hosted a press conference with them and Mayor Rob Ford. On stage actors posing as Mounties guarded the Stanley Cup as Ford, then most famous—and controversial—politician in Canada, gave the guys advice on how to campaign. Nothing was rehearsed and everyone was a bit nervous as I brought the three to dais.
Ferrell talked about what happened next on the Late Show with David Letterman.
“We step up to the mic. We’re supposed to say a few words, and I say, ‘How about a big round of applause for your mayor, Rob Ford.’ It was literally… not even a smattering of applause, just two people.”
“It was just so silent, that I actually had to comment on it. So I said, ‘Mr. Mayor, that’s a horrible ovation,’ and the press core burst out laughing. And he was just laughing. He didn’t care. Just sweaty.”
Ford was a good sport and played along. He gave them each a miniature Stanley Cup, pinned “Rob Ford for Mayor” buttons on their chests and handed out his famous business cards, fridge magnets and bumper stickers before imparting some sage advice.
“It’s very simple. Every person you meet hand out a magnet and business card and return people’s phone calls. Customer service is number one.” With a laugh he added, “and don’t talk to the Toronto Star,” the newspaper that had been dogging him of late.
It may not have been the smoothest promotional stunt of all time, but it certainly was a memorable one.
The next year Ferrell worked Ford into the promotion for Anchorman 2. By this time Ford’s scandal-ridden term in office, fuelled by admissions of drug use, had rocketed him into the international spotlight.
Ferrell, in character as ridiculous San Diego newscaster Ron Burgundy, came out in support of Ford’s re-election. “Ron doesn’t realize how much trouble Rob Ford is in,” said Ferrell. “He just thinks he’s a great guy. Gregarious. Fun. Life of the party. Ron’s advice would just be ‘keep doing what you’re doing, it’s obviously working.” He even wrote a campaign song to the tune of Loverboy’s Working for the Weekend.
As usual, Ford took it all in stride, tweeting, “I had to laugh at my friend Ron Burgundy & his take on my 2014 re-election campaign song.”
There’s been no mention of Rob Ford in the promotion for Get Hard, but if Ferrell ever makes The Campaign 2: The Re-Election perhaps he’ll give the former mayor a call.
Movies like “The Candidate” and “The Great McGinty” have set the bar pretty high in terms of political comedy. Both are satires about ambition, greed and corruption but neither features a candidate who punches a baby. That’s just one reason “The Campaign,” the new comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, gets the vote for the most outrageous political parody of all time.
Ferrell is political party animal Cam Brady, a slick four-term North Carolina congressman. When a drunken dial results in an Anthony Weiner-style scandal just before an election, two conniving and ultra-rich CEOs, Glen and Wade Motch (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) back a rival candidate they think they can control. Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) is the naïve operator of a small town tourist center who is suddenly thrust into the spotlight. The race turns ugly and soon mud is being slung faster than you can say Mitt Romney.
“The Candidate” begins with a quote from former presidential hopeful Ross Perot: “War has rules. Mud wrestling has rules. Politics has no rules.” Neither does the movie; no rules or boundaries. These candidates go beyond the usual name-calling—“He’s a communist.” “He looks like Osama Bin Laden.”—to dirty tricks that would make Tricky Dick blush.
It’s an exaggerated version of real life on the campaign trail, a through-the-looking glass-vision of how politics works.
Brady is the charismatic contender whose “America, Jesus and Freedom” mantra usually precedes a shout of “support our troops!” He knows what people want to hear and gives it to them.
You can’t help but see some of Ferrell’s famous George W. impression in the role, but that in take-off Bush was portrayed as bumbling and cocky. Brady, on the other hand is played as bumbling, cocky and desperate; desperate to win, to be liked, to be successful. It’s a fine line, but unlike Tina Fey and her bang-on impression of Sarah Palin, Ferrell lets go of the finer points and goes for a broader characterization of a dirty politician and not a mirror image of the former commander in chief.
Huggins is a Beltway outsider who polls say is perceived as “odd, clammy and looks like the Travelocity Gnome.” Soon, however, he learns the game. Galifianakis is an old hand at playing these unconventional characters, and brings a strange sweetness to Huggins. There’s a sense of character déjà vu here—the annoying but essentially goodhearted guy—is something we’ve seen him do before, so it’s not a game changer for him, but he is a good foil for the more physically imposing Ferrell.
“The Campaign” has its share of fun and funny commentary. The plan to create “insourcing”—moving Chinese factories and workers to America to save on shipping costs—is funny, (just so long as it doesn’t inspire any real-life industrialists), and it’s almost worth the price of admission to hear Chris Matthews report that Brady has lost support from “any group who opposes baby punching.”
But this isn’t “The Candidate” or “The Great McGinty.” Instead it is a slapstick comedy that earns its laughs from awkward and inappropriate humor—and the strangest version of the Lord’s Prayer ever committed to film—instead of pointed political satire.