I love politics, and Alex and I love movies about politics –
In an election year, movies about the Presidency are even more entertaining and relevant, so let’s look at three great Presidential films – a great political drama, a terrific comedy, and one of the best films of 2012!
Meet President “Dave”!
This is a great movie about politics and the Presidency, anchored by a terrific performance by Kevin Kline as President Bill Mitchell, the philandering and distant President of the United States.
[singing in the shower]
Dave: Hail to the chief / He’s the one we all say “Hail” to. / We all say “Hail” / ‘Cause he keeps himself so clean! / He’s got the power, / That’s why he’s in the shower…
Kevin Kline also plays Dave Kovic, a sweet-natured and caring Temp Agency owner, who looks exactly like the President. As such, when Mitchell wants to escape an official luncheon, the Secret Service hires Dave to stand in for him. Unfortunately, Mitchell suffers a severe stroke whilst having sex with one of his aides, and Dave finds himself stuck in the role indefinitely.
The corrupt and manipulative Chief of Staff, played deliciously by Frank Langella, plans to use fake “President Dave” to destroy the VP and elevate himself to the White House – but unfortunately, he doesn’t count on Dave enjoying himself in office, using his luck to make the country a better place, and falling in love with the beautiful First Lady…
Here’s a fun fact, thanks to IMDB: The president’s full name in the movie is William Harrison Mitchell; William Henry Harrison was a real president elected in 1840 and the first president to die in office.
The vice president in the movie is named Nance; John Nance Garner was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice president for two terms, and once derided the job as not being “worth a pitcher of warm piss” (bowdlerized at the time and often misquoted as “spit”).
And the dialogue rings true almost twenty years later…look at this conversation between Dave and the First Lady, played by Sigourney Weaver…
Ellen Mitchell: [after Dave reveals his true identity to Ellen] What do you do for a living?
Dave: You mean, when I’m not running the country?
Ellen Mitchell: Yeah.
Dave: I run a temp agency. You know, secretaries and stuff.
Ellen Mitchell: So you find people jobs.
Dave: What? What’s so funny?
Ellen Mitchell: It’s just, it’s more than most people do around here.
If you haven’t seen this, it’s a winner – funny, touching, and surprisingly topical…speaking of topical:
This is a great political thriller about the first female Vice President – well, until a Republican Senator decides to upend the nomination process with some scandalous charges…
Joan Allen is Laine Hanson, a senator who is nominated to become Vice President following the death of the previous office holder. During the confirmation process, Laine is the victim of a vicious attack on her personal life in which stories of sexual deviancy are spread. She is torn as to whether she should fight back, or stick to her high principles and refuse to comment on the allegations.
Jeff Bridges is terrific as the President of the United States, a funny, comfortable leader much like Bill Clinton – and one of the best things about the movie is that the President loves to order food from the White House kitchen!
It’s a funny running gag is a very serious movie – a film that looks candidly about how women are held to a different political standard and how they are treated in the political spotlight.
Laine Hanson: It seems to me that all you can claim about me… claim, is that I had sex.
Shelly Runyon: Deviant sex.
Laine Hanson: Oh, deviant? Who says it was deviant?
Shelly Runyon: I do. What I say the American people will believe. And do you know why? Because I will have a very big microphone in front of me.
Gary Oldman is terrific as Republican Senator Shelly Runyon, who is hellbent on destroying Hanson…
Shelly Runyon: Greatness is the orphan of urgency, Laine. Greatness only emerges when we need it most… in time of war or calamity. I can’t ask somebody to be a Kennedy or a Lincoln. They were MEN created by their times. What I… What I can ask for… is the promise of greatness. And that, Madam Senator… you don’t have.
Laine Hanson: Well, then… I just wouldn’t be using sex as leverage… if I were you, Sheldon. Because, you know, there’s one thing you don’t want. It’s a woman with her finger on the button who isn’t getting laid.
This is a great movie with a terrific cast – Rod Lurie directed beautifully from his own script…a great inside look at the politics of sex and gender.
Now, from a movie about a fictional female VP to a film that tells the story of real-life VP Candidate Sarah Palin…
In 2010, the book “Game Change” was published. This inside look at John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his VP running mate tore the lid off politics. By the way, it’s a great book – and it has been turned into the single best film of 2012 so far…
“GAME CHANGE” – HBO
In the summer of 2008, John McCain secures the Republican nomination for President, but polls show him losing big to the phenomenon that is Barack Obama. His Strategist Steve Schmidt suggests a “game changer”: picking a conservative female with media savvy, charisma and charm – unknown Alaska governor Sarah Palin – as McCain’s running mate.
You know the story, but this film lays it out beautifully: she’s an immediate hit – a real “game changer” – and the race for the White House is on. As McCain Strategist Steve Schmidt says to her:
Steve Schmidt: You seem totally unfazed by all this.
Sarah Palin: It’s God’s plan.
Then, Tina Fey’s impersonation, a raft of criticism, and missing her family send Palin into a near-catatonic state: she doesn’t prepare for her Katie Couric interview and bombs. The people behind the campaign realize Palin isn’t ready for the national stage…
Rick Davis: Listen, I too wish that the American people would choose the future Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson, but unfortunately, that’s not the way it works anymore. Now it takes movie-star charisma to get elected President, and Obama and Palin, that’s what they are – they’re stars.
Steve Schmidt: Primary difference being Sarah Palin can’t name a Supreme Court decision, whereas Barack Obama was a constitutional law professor.
Rick Davis: Fuck you.
This is a GREAT political movie – great acting, terrific direction, and an amazing story – and when you watch this film, realize they are portraying real people who have just gone through the presidential process…
The movie captures the pressure Palin was under, the intensity of a political campaign, and how tough it is on a family to be put under the national spotlight – and the film sympathizes with Palin in many ways…oh, and Julianne Moore is pitch perfect as the VP Candidate, especially when she decides to stand up to McCain’s advisors:
Steve Schmidt: I’m sorry, Governor, but there is only a few weeks left in this campaign and you have got to stop saying things to the press that are blatantly untrue; that is NOT the kind of campaign that we are running here!
Sarah Palin: [scornfully] Campaign? Is that what you’re calling this…
[starts leaving for rally]
Steve Schmidt: Governor, I admit that this is a dysfunctional campaign, but THAT is what I inherited and I am doing my level best to help us win this election!
Sarah Palin: [turns around] And that’s what I’m trying to do too, Steve, and all you’re doing is screwing me up! That’s all you’ve done this entire time is get in my way!
[starts to leave again, turns around]
Sarah Palin: Oh, OH! And I am raising millions of dollars for this campaign; hundreds of thousands of people are coming to see ME speak! Not John McCain, God bless him, they are coming to see me! SO, if I am single-handedly carrying this…”campaign”…
Sarah Palin: I’m gonna do what I want!
This movie premiered on HBO, but it is better than any film I have seen so far in 2012.
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