Man Of The Year

Man Of The Year

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

It’s amazing to think that Robin Williams, one-time stand-up and successful sitcom alien, has carved out such a diverse career, showing as strong an aptitude for the the serious (One Hour Photo, The Night Listener) as for comedy.

In Barry Levinson’s latest, he gets to combine the two to good effect. He is Tom Dobbs, a stand-up who has a regular TV show, specialising in political satire. One evening a woman says the fateful words, “Maybe you should run for president.” And before you can say, "Be careful what you wish for," he has thrown his hat into the ring.

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While he’s playing it serious in an attempt to get the better of his opponents, Laura Linney pops up as Eleanor Green, a technonerd, working in the IT department of the company responsible for the computerised voting system that will propel someone into the White House.

She spots a glitch in the system but, in true Evil Corporation style, her bosses don’t want to know, even if it means the wrong man (guess who?) may be elected without a majority vote. Her boss (Jeff Goldblum, criminally underused) tells her "the perception of legitimacy is more important than legitimacy,” before setting her up for a fall. Knowing she is going to struggle to find someone to believe her, she decides there’s only one person to tell (guess who again?).

It is at this point that the film(s) - one a dark political satire, the other a by-the-numbers thriller - come together in a compromise, involving a rather improbable romance over a Thanksgiving paintball outing and dinner.

What is most surprising is that, thanks to superb performances by Williams, Linney and Christopher Walken, as Tom’s acerbically witty manager, they very nearly get away with it. The political side shapes up the best. There are plenty of sharp one-liners - many, no doubt improvised by Williams - so that things move with a zip. Levinson’s thriller ambitions are less successful. We are expected to believe Linney is in constant peril - she does her best to convince us - but the plotline feels oddly truncated, as though important scenes have been cut to shorten the runtime. The romance, meanwhile, is the runt of the litter, relying on Linney and Williams to magically create something that isn’t in the script, although they almost succeed.

Levinson raises some interesting questions about the nature of politics and the threat of vote rigging. However, when he makes his point, it is akin to being hit in the face with a soggy sponge, rather than a biting slap.

The result is uneven, but never less than entertaining.

Reviewed on: 02 Nov 2007
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Satire with thriller pretensions about a comedian who decides to run for the White House.
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Director: Barry Levinson

Writer: Barry Levinson

Starring: Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Lewis Black, Jeff Goldblum, David Alpay, Faith Daniels, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Doug Murray, Chris Matthews

Year: 2006

Runtime: 115 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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