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The Contender

Finally, a movie that reminds us all how stodgy the Republicans really are.

OK, that's not really the point of The Contender, but can you imagine a movie about a Republican candidate accused of doing things not seen this side of a Boogie Nights outtake?

The story of The Contender is powerful. Democratic Senator Laine Hanson is nominated by her President to fill the vacancy left by the tragic death of the Vice President. The House Judiciary Committee holds hearings, and allegations are made, complete with some wonderfully vivid photos, that Senator Hanson played a human tinker toy after a few beers at a college frat party.

Did she or didn't she? That's the question people want answered, and Senator Hanson refuses to address the questions, because it is improper to ask such questions and are a strictly private matter. But I think everyone missed the point with this issue. Heck, based on some of the photos, she looks pretty darned flexible, and isn't that a good thing in a Vice President? Able to have his or her own ideals but be flexible and bend them to fit with the Presidential agenda? She can also, based on the allegations, handle numerous matters at once, and keeping many balls in the air is also a good quality in any politician. Personally, I would say that her possible experience as the missing link between Homo Erectus and Homo Erectus is valuable experience in dealing with the unknown, providing for the masses, and placing her constituents' needs above her own.

But I didn't write the film, so nobody in the movie ever figures this out.

Instead we're left with political intrigue, which is always exciting, an involving story, which is unusual in a movie these days, and genuine wonderful performances from the entire cast, which is almost unheard of.

Leading the way is Senator Hanson herself, Joan Allen. Ms. Allen is quickly establishing herself as an acting force with which to be reckoned, after amazing turns in Nixon, The Crucible, and Pleasantville. The Contender is her coup de grace. She was strong, compassionate, and powerful and I wanted to vote her into office myself, and that's before taking the whole "Human Power Strip" thing into account.

But she is not alone in deserving accolades. Gary Oldman as the crotchety Republican Representative leading the inquisition of Senator Puff N Stuff is marvelously earnest as the fine purveyor of political slime. Jeff Bridges is positively delicious as our President. And everyone else is equally cool.

In an interesting case of life imitating art, The Contender had trouble getting financed because its lead actor was a woman whose name wasn't Julia Roberts. And just like some characters refuse to believe that Joan Allen can be their Vice President, some people refused to believe that Joan Allen could carry a movie. But she does, and with gusto.

This is a high quality flick, and y'all should run out to the theaters and check it out before it goes away. I'm giving The Contender 4 1/6 Babylons. You can tell we're nearing the end of the year, all the Oscar-worthy flicks are cropping up, and this is surely one of them. For Ms. Allen if nothing else.

Editor's Note:

Since I'm feeling a bit neglected these days, I must let you know that the SMC's grammar was particularly horrible in this last review and I sweated for minutes over the spelling of "coup de grace"- the SMC had spelled it "koope des grah".

By the way, did anyone notice that the SMC hasn't been around for several weeks? Where do you think he went? Take a wild guess.

The Contender
Rated: R
Directed By: Rod Lurie
Starring: Joan Allen, Gary Oldman, Jeff Bridges, Sam Elliot, Christian Slater, Saul Rubinek and John Holmes.

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