Saturday, August 23, 2008

One good Vote deserves another

Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner), an apathetic, beer-slinging, lovable loser, is coasting through a life that has passed him by. The one bright spot is his precocious, over-achieving twelve year-old daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll). She takes care of both of them, until one mischievous moment on Election Day, when she accidentally sets off a chain of events which culminates in the election coming down to one vote... her dad's.Bud is a dull-witted man-child, drinking and sleeping through his life, barely making ends meet and failing at his blue-collar job. The audience is presumably supposed to identify with him, and if it were any other actor than the affable Costner that might be an insurmountable obstacle to the success of the film.Costner's Bud finds himself thrust into the national spotlight through a series of unlikely events surrounding the outcome of a fictional presidential election. When Bud's civically responsible daughter tries to cast a vote for him (he's too drunk to make it to the polls), a mishap with an electronic voting machine causes her/his vote to not be counted. Naturally, the election comes down a single state, a single county, a single town and a single vote… his. By law, he is given 10 days to recast his vote, which will ultimately decide who will become the next president of the United States. And he doesn't even know who's running. Soon, the small town of Texico, N.M. is buzzing with political operatives, reporters and activists, all trying to influence Bud's decision. He becomes a one-man target demographic for the candidates -- Republican President Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer) and Democratic challenger Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper). As they each modify their personalities to appeal to Bud's specific blue-collar tastes (football, NASCAR, Willie Nelson, beer), they also contort their positions to match his vague political stances, often in counter-intuitive ways. Based on Bud's offhand comments to a reporter, the Republican finds himself supporting issues such as the environment and gay marriage, while the Democrat films pro-life and anti-immigration campaign ads addressed directly to Bud.

I liked this movie, but barely, due to Costner´s performance.
Once you get past the far-fetched premise and realize that this film isn't intended to be at all realistic, the message is clear. Writer/director Joshua Michael Stern wants us to see ourselves in Bud. Bud is a screw-up and not that bright. Towards the end of the film, he lays it all out in a speech in which Bud basically admits the he (and thus, we) is the one who let this happen. Finally, it must be said that the hidden gem in this film is the 12-year-old Carroll, who plays Molly. As the responsible member of the Johnson household, she represents the idealized citizen we should all aspire to be. Molly is a tough cookie -- she's had to be, living with a dad as useless as Bud -- but she also has a vulnerable side. And in the scenes when that side comes out, it's heartbreaking. Carroll manages to capture both sides of Molly's personality without ever being too cloying or cute. At times she even outshines Costner, and that's no easy task. A strong 3 on my ¨Go See¨ scale.

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