[1998. Directed by Mike Nichols. Cast: John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Kathy Bates. Universal Pictures. 140 mins.] lL H Ln The vaguely uncomfortable feeling one might get while watching Mike Nichols' Primary Colors is simple to pinpoint: If Jack Stanton didn't exist, we'd have to invent him. Stanton, as near-vacantly portrayed by John Travolta, is a southem govemor running for president during the 1992 primary campaign season. He has a twinkle in his eyes that seemingly inhabits his every thought. His slightly sweet drawl oozes with sincerity at every corner. And his puffy body language fueled by a baker's dozen of Krispy Kreme donuts expansively reaches out with a convincing sincerity indicating that he knows our pain. It's not inconceivable that if Travolta were running for president as Jack Stanton - on Jack Stanton's platform using Jack Stanton's conceits - he'd win election to the White House. At the very least, it'd be a tight race. For Jack Stanton captures Nichols' imagination in Primary Colors as much as he captures the attention of the other characters in this tasty roman á clef based on the 1992 Democratie presidential campaign. By carefully modulating Travolta's appearance in the film - only initially giving us teasing glimpses of the candidate and then allowing him to increasingly domínate the movie as the plot gains momentum - Nichols builds an almost irresistible charisma in his lead character. Yet Travolta also has a few tricks up his sleeve in this film. He plays Stanton as a postmodernist cipher. As much pure surface as any telegenic simulacra inhabiting the netherworld of present day telecommunications, Jack Stanton is the stuff presidential dreams are made of. He's our very own personal presidential candidate complete with an uncanny empathy that seemingly leaps effortlessly from his consciousness to ours. Jack Stantonismorethan merely a great communicator. We've already had one of those in this era. Stanton is, instead, the talking head as tribal interlocutor. And as evincedby Travolta's remarkably relaxed, almost hypnotic manee, this might be exactly the president we deserve at this time. Emma Thompson as Susan, Stanton's wife and chief advisor, is his more stable, rational, and increasingly frustrated side. Adrían Lester, as Henry Burton (a stand in for the supposedly politically innocent George Stephanapoulos), is the naive outsider who gradually teams the waysofthepoliticalworld. BillyBobThomton's James Carville look-alike Richard Jemmons is wild and wily as Stanton's chief field cperative. And Kathy Bates shines as the master political fixer LJbby Holden. Each of these indispensable sorcerer's apprentices prove to be the mettleStantonneedstoshineabovethecrowd. Part visionary, part weasel, and all intuitive pragmatist, Jack Stanton's true (and equally important, not so true) colors paint the other hues of Mike Nichols' political rainbow in Primary Colors. Every movement needs a voice and Stanton's sometimes unctuous, but never false confidence f lis the yeaming of the people in this questionably fictional America Nichols' latest film is supposedly a comedy . And it does have a few funny moments. But there are also times when what it has to say about us as a nation - and the political leadership that arises from within our society - is no laughing matter. Primary Colors is one of those peculiar instances where fiction as fact gets outstripped by the sheer weight of history itself . THE FULL MONTY [[1997. Directed by Peter Cattaneo. Cast: Robert Carlyle, Torn Wilkinson, Mark Addy. Searchlight PicturesFox Home Video. 90 mins.] m & Granted, some movies' leading men are gems in the rough. But only a very few films have taken the idea of exposing its actors' family jewels as its central premise. The Full Monty is the best of this rarely used (much less seen) topic. Peter Cattaneo's first directoral effort deliberately tugs at the average man's sensitive spot by focusing attention on what most guys would be unwilling to consider as a source of much humor. It's from this clever premise that the film hilariously succeeds. Gaz (Robert Carlyle) and his friend Dave (Mark Addy) are a couple of unemployed Sheffield, England steelworkers. After so many rejections from their local unemployment agency - and an eye-opening sidelong glance of an adult x-rated all male dance revue - the two mugs decide what's good for the physically sculpted goose is equally good for their nearly cooked ... and, well, not-quite-so physically sculpted gooses. Recruiting their former factory foreman, starchy middle-class Gerald (Torn Wilkinson), and adding another trio of unlikely exotic dancers by audition, these two near-losers hatch a scheme to do a local one-night stand featuring their barest essentials. And it's a good thing, too, because all six of these would-be flamingos are victims of the harsh economie laws of 1990s British diminishing returns. It takes a certain kind of cock-eyed nerve to find laughter in the plight of six desperately unemployed middle-aged men. Men who are not only so nearly beyond the age of useful re-education, but almost beyond the point of gainful social rehabilitation. It's this sheer sense of desperation that hurtles the film forward with a good-natured scruffy gusto. The only thing Gaz wants is to earn enough filthy lucre to pay child support and get a reasonable say in raising his son. His best friend Mark only wants to make his way honorably. Ex-foreman Gerald, the eldest and ostensibly most responsible of the three, is also their social conscience. Cattaneo and screenwriterSimon Beaufoy stack the film's deck solidly in their favor by stereotyping each man and lampooning each man's weakness until a heroic fleshy overcoming of the will triumphs over their initial shortcomings. But the film wouldn't work nearly as well as it does if it didn't have a likable enough ringleader at its heart. And Carlyle's Gaz more than holds his own in this likable ensemble piece. Like his prior layabout - the alcoholic psychopathic Begbie in Trainspotting - Carlyle's proletarian looks and hardscrabble manner holds the film's center together. There's been something memorable recently about working-class types getting knocked down and getting back up again that fits right into the spirit of The Full Monty. The film is living proof that the rules of the masculine game are changing as we move towards the next century ... but the average man's resilience is not. The British have long extolled the stiff upper-lip. With The Full Monty they may aim below the belt, but they also come up swinging. RATING KEY i& Acting H Cinematography Direction $E Editing '& Narrative Sound Special Effects When a symbo appears following a titie, it implies that the conesponéng category s a strength of the mom.
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