Thursday, September 25, 2008

SWING VOTE - actually rather enjoyable!

I went to see SWING VOTE because my mum loves Kevin Costner and I love my mum. That age discrepancy leads you to the first stumbling block in the movie: how plausible is it that someone of Kevin Costner's age would have a 12 year old daughter? How much more fun would this movie have been if it had, for instance, starred Sam Rockwell? But this is the least of the film's problems in terms of willing suspension of disbelief: the conceit of SWING VOTE is that the whole US Presidential election is so finely balanced that it comes down to the vote of a single man and that, thanks to a malfunctioning electronic voting terminal, each party has ten days to win him over to their cause.

Despite these seemingly insurmountable odds, SWING VOTE made a really good attempt to make the electoral conceit seem believable, and the whole movie is so much fun that I simply went with it. Like a moody independent, I was won over by its earnest good intentions, its sheer audacity, and the fact that Kevin Costner and Madeline Carroll pull-off the central emotional relationship at the heart of the film. Kevin Costner absolutely surprised me with his humanity and ability to pull off physical comedy. He makes Bud Connell an everyman in the mould of Homer Simpson. Yes, he's a shirker, yes, he drinks too much beer, but at heart he wants to do right by his family and he's got a lot of common sense. Madeline Carroll is also really great as his daughter Molly. She plays one of those over-responsible kids of divorce, effectively parenting her own father. But she also acts like a kid and doesn't have the preternatural air of grim adulthood that I sometimes detect in Dakota Fanning.

Admittedly, this movie pulls its punches when it comes to satirising the political system. Kelsey Grammer plays a W-lite dumb Republican President and Dennis Hopper plays a candidate for "Change" Democrat. Their campaign managers are played by the ever-brilliant Stanley Tucci in Karl Rove mode and Nathan Lane respectively. But the jokes are as soft as the targets are obvious. This movie clearly doesn't want to upset anyone. Still, maybe this was the right way to go with what is, essentially, a sweet film about a father and daughter bonding. And on that level, this is a very satisfying film.

The SWING VOTE opened earlier this year in the US, Greece and Turkey. It is currently on release in Brazil and the UK. It opens in the Netherlands and Spain on October 30th.

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