, 17 Dec 2008
I used to have a bit of a unhealthy dislike of Kevin Costner. Its a common thing in your life to be against somebody but actually have no real reason as to why. You just simply dont like them. Maybe it was something to do with the over the top, grandiouso films, or the fact that the guy seemed to take himself WAAAAYYY too seriously, or the fact that he shoved baseball down my throat constantly but I just didnt like him. In fact I was so glad that Waterworld flopped cos I hoped that would sink him (pardon the pun).
But rather predictably it didnt, and instead hes continued along on his merry way making more emotionally charged cheese fests. That was until I stumbled on Mr Brooks earlier on this year, and realised that actually hes not all the bad. Now admittedly I liked his turn in JFK and Robin Hood was a little bit of fun but this was the first film off of Costner that I REALLY liked him in. Therefore, strapped to my plane seat 36,000ft over the Middle East somewhere I found myself tapping the fourth new film on the In-flight entertainment list, Swing Vote.
That this film was seeing the light of day around this time of the year was no real surprise, given that the US election had just been completed (hence the timing of Bush biopic, W as well) and in some ways Costner has fallen again into the morality propaganda pic again, with a film spouting the clear motto Every Vote Counts. In the film Costner is Bud Johnson, a man who through a technical glitch becomes the sole decider of the US Presidential Election. This would be some task even for a well educated college professor, but considering Bud is Homer Simpson in a trailer park it wasnt going to be plain sailing.
So as the worlds media and warring presidential candidates descend on Buds town, he becomes the centre of a circus where he is the star. With all of his needs pandered to and his whims entertained its not long before he loses sight of the objective, buried under his new found star status and messages from his idols. While Bud might be Homer though his daughter Molly is absolutely Lisa. While she may not champion every ecological cause on the planet (although Im sure she would given a chance) she is smart, well-educated and world wise.
Both of these characters obviously represent the differing attitudes to the democratic process, Buds representing the apathetic American voter who doesnt believe in the system and that his vote doesnt matter, while Molly is the new eager blood of the States, who is driven by the policies and a hope of a better world. The process itself is obviously brought to life by the election and warring candidates Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper, who hold either end of Bud in the tug of war when really they should be sweet talking Molly. That these men stoop to extraordinary lengths to try to win Buds vote is a play on politics in general. The broken promises made only to win over the voters, and the abandonment of morals just to win the toughest job in the world, no matter who it may affect. The fact that the race has become more about winning then actually making a difference has been apparent in recent years, although many may now believe that the times they are a changing now with the election of the big O.
Swing Votes tone changes quite often, from sentimental family drama to a political satire and is pretty bloody enjoyable and in some places downright funny. Costner is (I cant believe I am saying this) excellent as the lay about bum, playing bunny caught in the headlights superbly. Grammar and Hopper seem to have an enourmous amount of fun parodying political leaders, and are ably supported by their campaign managers, smarmy Stanley Tucci and desperate Nathan Lane. But the standout here is Molly (Madeline Carrol). While we may have seen some pretty prodigious child actors in recent years, she is truly brilliant as Buds long suffering daughter. A stand out section where Molly has to apologise for her absent father to her class mates while being seriously hurt because he isnt there isnt just touching but practically rips your heart out and she is definitely one to keep an eye open for.
While the majority of the film is well handled and enjoyable, it is somewhat of a pity that it should then end with a schmaltzy monologue from Costner (havent we been here before?). Surely there was someway of conveying the point with out the old Costner staple ending. While this certainly does lead to a finger down the throat reaction, it is fundamentally a decent film, and while it might be a public service announcement to some it is enjoyable nonetheless.
May I just add in amendment that it is also nice to see Judge Reinhold back again even if he is playing the Carl or Lou of the story.
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