They sketch a flabby electorate that accepts managed news from spin doctors and mannequin anchors; and then, with clear-eyed compassion, they explore the nature of the master seducer who is both their protagonist and our president.

PRIMARY COLORS

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


It's time to revisit "Primary Colors." Don't be one of the many who are bypassing this movie because they are sick of real- life Washington scandal. This movie is a winner. Mike Nichols and Elaine May have made Joe Klein's book into a rollicking entertainment that also happens to be profound in its observations about honor and morality. A movie that makes you laugh and think at the same time is a victory for everyone.

This campaign of '92 is a blindingly shallow affair manufactured by cynical spin masters and transmitted to a bored populace by a scandal-hungry press. At the center of it all stands candidate Jack Stanton (John Travolta), governor of a small Southern state, a man born to schmooze, a man who wants to love and be loved by every human being whose hand he shakes.

With a fiercely empathetic core, Stanton cares greatly about the well-being of people. He is fascinated by individuals, bored by the collective. Deaf to moral shadings, he tells lies and beds women. When his appetite rises, he reaches. When he's caught, he lies.

Stanton clearly longs for the days of JFK, when an underground railway of sex partners operated without public scrutiny. If every modern president, excepting probably Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter, has had his way with women, what's new is the ravenous public appetite for scandal and the crumbling of the old-boy press that used to protect the president.

John Travolta paints an intriguing portrait of a man indifferent to morality as long as the greater good is served. With sharp perception and prodigious talent, Travolta captures the essence of Governor Stanton in two inspired scenes-one in a union hall, one in a doughnut shop. While Stanton schmoozes with people he cares about, his staff and his wife Susan (Emma Thompson) are engaged in a 24-hour struggle to pick up the pieces their man scatters as he goes.

The actors, beautifully cast, know what their director wants, and they deliver. Emma Thompson, with a perfect Midwestern accent, catches Susan/Hilary's flinty public image and lets us know that she's in this power race not just for her husband, but also for herself. They have a deal, these two, and her turn will come.

Adrian Lester makes Henry Burton/George Stephanopoulos the convincing moral center of the drama. Kathy Bates plays spinmeister Libby Holden as a tough broad who can take anything but the final insult to the integrity she shared with the Stantons in earlier times. Larry Hagman, Billy Bob Thornton, and Maura Tierney put life force into their characters.

Mike Nichols and Elaine May use this abundance of talent to look at American politics with laser light. Their provocative, funny movie is a masterstroke. They sketch a flabby electorate that accepts managed news from spin doctors and mannequin anchors; and then, with clear-eyed compassion, they explore the nature of the master seducer who is both their protagonist and our president.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Studio : Universal
Rating : R
Running Time: 2h23m


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