Starring: John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Larry Hagman, Adrian Lester
Director: Mike Nichols
We’re on the campaign trail with Governer Jack Stanton (Travolta – “A Civil Action”, “Domestic Disturbance”) and his wife, Susan (Thompson – “Much Ado About Nothing”, “Sense and Sensibility”, “Carrington”). Stanton is going for the American Presidency, but unfortunately his sex drive is giving campaign spin doctors, Henry (Lester – “Maybe Baby”) and Richard (Thornton – “The Man Who Wasn’t There”, “Bandits”, “Sling Blade”), plenty to do. Long-time political acquaintence, Libby (Bates – “Misery”), returns to help quash the challenge of his political opponent as well as the numerous sex scandals which rear their ugly heads.
This is quite obviously a humorous look inside the political lives of the Clintons, and at the time of it’s release, Bill Clinton was still President of the US. But truth is probably funnier than fiction and so much of the behind-the-scenes action probably bears more than a passing resemblence to the real thing. Stanton is actually a positive politician, and one who doesn’t want to use dirty tricks to win the election. His wife has her loyalty tested by his frequent infidelity and seems to view it as par for the course.
The main focus seems to be young campaign manager, Henry, who leaves his old job with a black politican to join Stanton’s team. He believes in Stanton, but takes a dumping from his girlfriend for the way he has abandoned his principals. Along the way, Henry keeps the faith and is made feel part of the success, until eventually he sees behind the charade that is political spin wizardry. Thornton puts in a very notable performances as the over-bearing and vulgar, Richard, but Kathy Bates steals the show as the crazy but amiable campaign aide.
The ‘Clintons’ acquit themselves well with Travolta doing a pretty good ‘Bill’ and Emma Thompson playing more than a mere tag-along. But the movie itself lacks spark and despite best intentions, it rarely gets the blood rushing and the laughs are few and far between. If you want a political satire, check out Warren Beatty’s “Bulworth”.