You will wish he was running for president or What happened in there?
Barry Levison’s “Man of the Year” is a fragmented Political/Comedy/Romantic/Thriller that may leave audiences either confused or cheering – or in my, case both. The film stars Robin Williams as Comedian/TV show host Tom Dobbs who runs for president and wins by a computer error. Sound familiar? The fragmentation sets in when the film becomes a political thriller at the point where Eleanor Green (Laura Linny), a programmer, finds a glitch in the polling system derived by her employer. The company decides to offshoot her as a drug addict and promptly removes her from her position. Somehow afterwards, she meets the newly elected president and wishes to tell him of the error. In the meantime, the President falls for her.
Robin Williams is in top form in the film and has returned to what he does best. Ad-lib. The script is great and the screenplay is okay. The story itself is a Frankenstein of ideas from Rob Reiner’s 1995 film The American President to Ivan Reitman’s 1993 film Dave, among others. It appears that the film also gives a nod to comedian John Stewart. The supporting cast is top notch with Christopher Walken (Jack Menken) as Dobbs Beloved, chain-smoking, manager and Lewis Black as Dobbs’ sarcastic writer Eddie Langston, who balances every scene. In fact, these three actors should get together again. The chemistry is just so great. The character Alan Stewart, the cold and pushy lawyer played by Jeff Goldblum, is also noteworthy. Alan Stewart is the epitome of what is wrong in our society. People who can make something that is wrong seem so right.
The speed of the film is daunting and tries to give the audience a feel of how a campaign might run. Much like a reality show…Ahem, and this leaves many holes in the script. One scene at a birthday party Dobbs actually explains to Eleanor one of the holes but somehow it does not come across clearly. Maybe Williams also came across that glitch when he read the script.
The romantic part of the film is also somewhat unbelievable. How would the president fall for a lady who seems so insanely out of her mind (It’s worthy to mention again that Laura Linny portrays the character very well). She reminded me of South Park’s Tweek character. I wanted to somehow give her a Valium and lock her up, and she had good reason to be. But the humanity of Dobbs is so well stationed in the film that you will find yourself wishing he were a real person and running for President.
“Man of the Year” covers all aspects of what power can be contrived of: Defaming of character, espionage, false pretenses, mistrust, and corporate evil. One scene in a limo on the way to his first day as the big cheese, Dobbs’ subtle shock in his eyes as he hears his itinerary made me realize what any man might go through in that position.
The soundtrack composed, by the talented Graeme Revell who worked on “Red Planet”, “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Sin City”, was a tough assignment on this film. Revell goes through all sorts of moods but leaves an egg for the ending credits which sounds like a horror film. Being a musician myself, I would have cringed at the idea of working on a film this fragmented. One person in the audience noticed my expression and said, “No one really stays for the ending credits anyhow.”
“Well, I do.” was my reply.
Barry Levinson who brought us “Rain Man”, “Good morning Vietnam”, and my particular favorite, “Diner”, tries to cover all bases in “Man of the Year” but somehow, I hate to say it, fails. During the film I laughed, experienced suspense, and loved what I was going through. After the film though, I started to think about what was wrong in the story. It was truly a letdown. But the idea behind a film like this is to make you think. Unfortunately, it made me think about the shortcomings. The tagline for the film should not be “Could this man be our next president?” or “What if a Comedian Ran for President…What if He Won?” It should be like the one for ABC’s “The Nine”: “What happened in there?”
Otherwise I liked the film. It is, again, good to see a talent like Robin Williams, who has proven he can do drama, back to a comedy with good intensions and some intelligence. It has been so long since we had seen him do comedy. I plead the fifth though on “RV”.