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While Slightly Off The Mark, 'Irresistible' 'Deserves A Good Look & A Couple Of Laughs'

© 2020 Focus Features, LLC
Steve Carell plays high-end Democratic consultant Gary Zimmer, who goes head-to-head with GOP operative Faith Brewster (played by Rose Byrne) as they battle for a Wisconsin small town mayoral election in "Irresistible."

Campaign finance, dark money, Super PACs, political campaigning — sounds like a perfect comedy to be set in small town Wisconsin.

Irresistible, written and directed by late night talk show veteran Jon Stewart, aims to be a civic lesson wrapped in realistic absurdity with a touch of Midwest nice that we’re known for. The film follows Gary Zimmer, a Democratic political strategist played by Steve Carell, who uses running a mayoral campaign for a Wisconsin farmer as a way to come out of his post-2016 election slump and re-energize the heartland that was long neglected. 


"I think that Irresistible reflects the frustrations that many Democrats and people of progressive political bend felt toward the way that the Hillary [Clinton presidential] campaign was run," says film contributor Dave Luhrssen

But Stewart’s target is not just the Democratic party in Irresistible. Actress Rose Byrne stars as Faith Brewster, the Republican National Committee closer that also descends on the small town from Washington D.C. to ensure the Republican incumbent mayor wins reelection.

The setting of fictional Deerlaken, Wisconsin and the way outsiders insert themselves to create change with the main goal of defeating the other party, while on the surface may seem like entertainment, is not far off from the truth of how America operates.

"Maybe the challenge to satirists of all kinds in 2020, is that the world itself has become so absurd that it’s really hard almost to make fun of it, because it already is sadly funny," says Luhrssen.

Luhrssen says he does not think that the film will reach far beyond what audience Stewart has already built, especially due to the timing of its release. Had Irresistible been released in theaters in spring pre-coronavirus as originally planned instead of shifting to video on demand June 26, it could have been timely. However, with the world dealing with a pandemic and protests against systemic racism, the film seems to miss the mark.

"It seems like it's a little late to arrive," notes Luhrssen. "It's not quite timely in the way that Jon Stewart may have hoped it would be."

However, Luhrssen says that Wisconsinites will probably enjoy the film simply for its setting and appreciation for our "have a good one" way of life.

"I think where it excelled was getting at the sort of Wisconsin, upper Midwest sensibility that maybe we take for granted here ... which seems very strange to the Steve Carell character," says Luhrssen.  

"I hope it does find an audience of people," he adds. "I think it deserves a good look and a couple of laughs."

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
David Luhrssen is arts and entertainment editor of the Shepherd Express, co-founder of the Milwaukee International Film Festival and co-author of A Time of Paradox: America Since 1890. He is the winner of the Pace Setter Award for contributions to Milwaukee's film community from the Milwaukee Independent Film Society. David Luhrssen has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and Milwaukee Area Technical College.