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US politics is no laughing matter - Steve Carrell's latest movie is an old-fashioned and frustratingly polite attempt at satire

Paul Whitington


In Jon Stewart’s prim-and-proper political satire, Washington spin doctors get mixed up with a small-town election, writes Paul Whitington

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Rose Byrne and Steve Carell star as Washington spin doctors

Rose Byrne and Steve Carell star as Washington spin doctors

Rose Byrne and Steve Carell star as Washington spin doctors

Rose Byrne and Steve Carell star as Washington spin doctors

Chris Cooper runs for mayor in small-town Deerlaken

Chris Cooper runs for mayor in small-town Deerlaken

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Rose Byrne and Steve Carell star as Washington spin doctors

Gore Vidal once said that he bought his villa on the cliff tops of the Amalfi Coast because it was "a wonderful place from which to observe the end of the world". If the great man were still alive, he'd have a box seat for what looks like the imminent collapse of American democracy, the pet subject he returned to time and again in numerous elegantly jaded essays.

Americans never tire of hubristically crowing about the magnificence of their constitution and the infallible checks and balances of a two-house presidential system. After four years of Trump, it doesn't look quite so infallible, as virtually every aspect of government has been attacked, infiltrated and undermined by the bombastic and semi-literate TV celebrity.

In fairness to Agent Orange, however, American democracy has been in big trouble for at least a half century, its institutions hopelessly compromised by big business, vested interests and - most of all - money. That's the underlying theme of Irresistible, an earnest but soft-pedalling political comedy from Jon Stewart that seeks to wrest macro truths from a micro scenario. That would be Deerlaken, Wisconsin, a small rural community that attracts the interest of a renowned Democratic Party spin doctor.