Political Realism Presented Entertainingly
William Hare | Seattle, Washington | 01/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Candidate" was released in the appropriate year of 1972, when Richard Nixon was reelected, using the media to present himself as a solid, trusted leader who was being challenged by liberal elitists operating in concert with the Eastern media establishment. When the full force of Watergate buried Nixon in scandal shortly thereafter, resulting in his resignation in 1974, the messages presented in "The Candidate" became all the clearer as Nixon's hollow facade lay fully exposed.Jeremy Larner, a former speechwriter for presidential candidate Senator Eugene McCarthy in 1968, used his political savvy to craft a script based on the realism of campaigning in the television age, in which, to use Marshall McLuhan's apt phrase, "the medium is the message." Larner copped a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his effort. Robert Redford plays Bill McKay, who runs a poverty law center and has no ambitions to seek political office. He is urged to do so as the Democrats in California seek an opponent for a solidly entrenched incumbent U.S. Senator played by Don Porter. Redford, whose father, played by Melvyn Douglas, is a former California governor, agrees to run after being told that he can address topics on his own terms. The idea is that he is expected to make a decent run but is not expected to win. Redford articulates ideas near and dear to him that are not embraced by the broad spectrum of California voters. When he runs poorly in the primary, however, he is informed that he needs to make changes or risk being humiliated in the general election by Porter, a prospect he does not relish.Redford's ensuing frequent turnabouts on major issues make him anything but the refreshingly candid candidate he sought to become. As the polls close and there is possible light at the end of the long campaign tunnel, Redford becomes more of a blurry media creation and loses the old image of refreshingly solid commitment he had previously displayed.Eventually Redford upsets Porter. By the time the long race ends he is immersed in a total blur. The film's closing line is a gem. After winning the race Redford, seated in his hotel room with his campaign staff, asks, "What do we do now?""The Candidate" was one of director Michael Ritchie's finest efforts. The pacing becomes gradually stepped up as the campaign moves into its important stretch run. By the end the viewer is immersed in the same kind of non-stop, frenzied blur as are the candidates and their staffs, providing a graphic display of political realism via the camera's all-seeing eye."
EXCELLENT POLITICAL FLICK
Steven R. Travers | CALIFORNIA | 06/07/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Robert Redford was behind the entertaining political movie "The Candidate" (1972), which goes a long way towards explaining how the game works. This film is really not a liberal one, which is what makes it worthwhile even after 30 years. It is supposed to be based on Edmund "Jerry" Brown, former California Governor Pat Brown's son. Jerry Brown at the time was a youthful Secretary of State who would go one to two terms as Governor. He was a new kind of pol, attractive, a bit of swinger who dated rock star Linda Rohnstadt, and representative of the Golden State image of the 1970s. They called him "Governor Moonbeam".
Redford plays the son of the former Governor of California, played by Melvyn Douglas. The old man is old school all the way, having schmoozed his way up the slippery slope through implied corrupt deals with labor unions and other Democrat special interests. Redford is a young man who played football at Stanford and is now a social issues lawyer of the pro bono variety, helping Mexicans in Central California. Peter Boyle knew him at Stanford and is now a Democrat political consultant who recruits Redford to run for Senator against Crocker Jarman, an entrenched conservative Orange County Republican. Jarman could be Reagan, but he is as much a composite of the traditional Republican: Strong on defense, down on affirmative action and welfare, a real "up by the bootstraps" guy who emerged from the Depression and World War II to make up our "greatest generation."
The film does an about-face on perceptions that, in many cases, turn out to be true. Redford is the rich kid with connections. Jarman beat the Depression like the rest of the U.S., without a social worker.
"How did we do it?" he mocks.
Redford's film wife is played by Karen Carlson, pure eye candy (but what happened to her career I cannot say?). She has ambitions of her own, and pushes him to do it because he has the "power," an undefined sexual charisma of the JFK variety. Redford plays a caricature of himself, handsome but considered an empty suit. His deal is he can say any outrageous thing because he cannot win anyway, and in so doing shows he has the brains. When he creeps up in the polls, the idealism gives way to standard politicking, complete with deals with his old man's crooked labor buddies. He wins, demonstrating the power of looks and TV advertising. In the end he expresses that he is not prepared for the task.STEVEN TRAVERSAUTHOR OF "BARRY BONDS: BASEBALL'S SUPERMAN"
Powerful, political dynamite...
Kenneth M. Pizzi | San Mateo, CA United States | 11/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As the American public grows more dissatisfied with the corruption and ineptitude of their political candidates, movies like Michael Ritchie's "The Candidate" become all the more timely and relevant. A product of a cynical age and although a bit dated (the film was released in 1972, and Redford would follow with the cynical and conspiratorial anti-CIA film, "Three Days of the Condor" in 1973), "The Candidate" is a illustrative vehicle demonstrating how pollsters, admen, press agents, and what we would call now "spin doctors" packaged political candidates to an unsuspecting electorate before anyone had ever heard of blogs and the internet.
As the liberal attorney-now Democratic senatorial-candidate, Bill McKay, Redford plays a man whose integrity and ideals fall prey to the American political and media machine that compel him to win. Peter Boyle, as McKay's campaign manager, and Melvyn Douglas, as the candidate's father, contribute vital supporting roles that are are as absorbing as the film itself.
Ritchie's film, along with Elia Kazan's superb "A Face in the Crowd" (1958), no less than an indictment against the role the television media plays in political campaigns, should be required viewing in every undergraduate political science class."
Still holds up today...
Ron Houghton | calgary AB | 09/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A great look into the inside world of the political campaign. Redford plays a idealist with big ambitions, but little know how. (sound familiar?). As he inches his way higher up the holy grail of elected office, he finds his own morality slipping away. (with one of the great last lines in any movie). Redford has mentioned he might be interested in a sequel, I hope so, the dirty world of politics has only sunk deeper in a swamp of media shallowness.
BTW - how about a new edition with commentary and proper aspect ratio."