Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Kevin Costner is outshined by litle Madeline Carroll in Swing Vote, new to DVD and BluRay today (Walt Disney)
I missed seeing Swing Vote (out on DVD and BluRay January 13) when it opened in theaters and figured I'd catch up with it on DVD. I want my two hours back. The idea has potential, something Frank Capra or Preston Sturges could have exploited for humor and insight back in the 30s or 40s. But Costner, working with director and co-writer Joshua Michael Stern, creates a character that's quite unbearable. The film, arriving after voters were feeling a height of cynicism about the process and before the last presidential election, tried to have a social conscience and to inspire people to rise from their apathy to exercise their civic duty. But it all feels so contrived and pretentious. Costner plays a man who's down on his luck, prone to drink, and blessed with a smart, loving daughter (Madeline Carroll) who for some inexplicable reason adores him. She tries to make him vote and in a highly improbable twist of fate her dad's vote turns out to the one that will decide the election. I'm willing to give the film it's far fetched premise but Costner's character is made to be so pathetic and unengaging that you cannot believe his daughter would stay with him and maintain her faith in him. He has to show some redeeming quality to make his relationship with her believable. Plus Costner projects a sense that he's far above the character that he's playing that it constantly feels like an actor acting. Carroll is very convincing and Mare Winningham, as the estranged mother, seems to be from another film. Winningham is so real and distressed that she taps into the only real emotion in the whole film. Kelsey Grammar as the Republican president and Dennis Hopper as the Democratic hopeful are subdued and enjoyable but the film tries so hard to be balanced that it sometimes forgets to be funny or insightful. Plus the DVD arrives after a landslide election in which many voters feel that their faith in the process has been somewhat restored so the film's message is less topical. Here are some better options for political comedy: The Great Man Votes, The Great McGinty, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Candidate . You can check out my other suggestions for political fims at about.com .
Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris star in Appaloosa, out on DVD and BluRay today (Warner Brothers)