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