DIRECTOR: Michael Ritchie
May contain spoilers!
For those West Wing fans amongst us, here it is. This little remembered 1972 satire is clearly the basis for the final two seasons of the hit TV show, one which I am personally very fond of. Maybe it could be argued that any film dealing realistically with a political campaign would look and feel similar and that may be true but watching this, it felt just like I was watching Jimmy Smits’ Santos vs. Alan Alda’s republican counterpart duking it out.
Is this a bad thing? No, not at all. Both are great and this did it first. Robert Redford’s common-man lawyer is talked into running a issue based campaign against the old school incumbent on the basis the he will lose but it is how he loses that will be important. He will be able to raise issues and make life difficult for his opponent, forcing a better, fairer election. But Peter Boyle’s campaign manager is not as intent of losing as he first implied and Redford is now in race that he may win.
It is not the most detailed film on the subject, with The West Wing’s long running TV format much more capable to taking us through the machinations of a political campaign and of course this is only a Senate race, not a Presidential one, but still, it covers the bases and proves that a film which was made 43 years ago highlights the same flaws in a political system which has not changed a bit in over four decades.
Redford, well, he is just Redford, charismatic and charming as he is taken along for the ride down the rocky road of ‘modern’ politics but the feel is both satirical and informative, showing the fickle nature of the democratic political system. Sharply scripted, smoothly acted and clearly setting the stage for more noteworthy films of this subject, The Candidate is a hidden gem of this genre and well worth seeking out.