The American President

The American President


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

It’s election year and US President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas), a widowed single-father with a comfortable approval rate among the voters, is preparing to pass a crucial crime bill. After determined lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening) approaches Andrew’s team (Martin Sheen, Michael J Fox, David Paymer) about pushing an environmental bill which may clash, he asks her out and a romance soon blossoms. Seeing this as a weakness, rival Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfuss) uses their relationship to discredit the President’s reputation and decides to run for himself.

Though Rob Reiner’s The American President is a decent romantic drama in its own right, it remains most notable today as something of a dress rehearsal for screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s acclaimed political drama The West Wing. With Sorkin involved, the script boasts all the recognisably smart wordplay and clever exchanges you might expect, while there’s also an idealised government with a liberal agenda, some familiar faces (the most obvious being Martin Sheen, although he’s not playing the President here) and even a few of the same sets.

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Accordingly, it occasionally veers into trite territory and the climax involves a big rousing speech, but it’s all very charming and intelligent.

Reiner’s buddy Dreyfuss is surprisingly one-note as the ‘villain’ (especially for a character that talks about character), but Douglas makes for a credible leader of the free world (even when sharing the screen with Sheen, a man most of us think of as the President). Annette Benning is typically terrific playing opposite him, while Fox is a stand-out, if slightly underused, as the uptight spin doctor.

Reviewed on: 08 Sep 2012
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A widowed president falls for a lobbyist.
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Director: Rob Reiner

Writer: Aaron Sorkin

Starring: Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox, Anna Deavere Smith, Samantha Mathis, Shawna Waldron, David Paymer, Anne Haney, Richard Dreyfuss, Nina Siemaszko, Wendie Malick, Beau Billingslea, Gail Strickland, Joshua Malina

Year: 1995

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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