This movie is a first-rate romantic comedy in which everything works.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"The American President" had the good luck to fall into the very best of hands. Imagine what might have happened to the premise of a widowed American president falling in love with a beautiful environmental lobbyist as he returns to the dating game. It's a minefield of possible mistakes. Instead, the movie is a thoroughly winning romantic comedy. Why? For one thing, writer Aaron Sorkin ("A Few Good Men") has written another tight, literate script with a pace that never flags. Sorkin and director Rob Reiner have created a White House full of decent people grappling in a partisan but relatively honest way with the problems that challenge the presidency. Michael J. Fox plays staff advisor Lewis Rothschild; Martin Sheen is the best friend/chief of staff; Anna Deavere Smith, the lightning rod press secretary. When the boss (Michael Douglas) meets his lobbyist (Annette Bening), the loyal staff closes ranks to protect him from public view. President Andrew Shepherd and Sydney Ellen Wade are courting in the full glare of the national spotlight. Richard Dreyfuss is in full flower as Senator Bob Rumson, a self-righteous defender of family values determined to unseat the president with malice. But partisan politics are merely the backdrop in this comedy. It is the political game itself that is the currency of the courtship, and, as the president says, "The White House is the single greatest home court advantage in the modern world." Sorkin's lightning script and Reiner's tight direction would have been undone in a stroke by a casting error in either of the leads, but when some higher power led them to Michael Douglas and Annette Bening, the game was won. Neither of these actors has to pretend to be smart and quick--they just are. Dodging the comic roadblocks of a White House courtship, they make this couple entirely credible. Without even a touch of false modesty or sentiment, Douglas is a devoted father to his daughter, a man who likes his job, a gentle guy in search of the right mate. Bening, the earnest idealist, can turn on a dime from hot pursuit on behalf of her cause to bemused fascination with the notion that the President of the United States has fallen in love with her. The screen chemistry between Bening and Douglas is as good as it gets, allowing them to inhabit their roles with great comfort. Their intelligence and lighthearted charm make the President and his lover thoroughly believable without diminishing their plausibility as tough negotiators in the political arena. It seems entirely possible that both of them could carry off the same jobs in real life at least as well as anyone else in the last few decades. This movie is a first-rate romantic comedy in which everything works. Credit Sorkin and Reiner. Salute Douglas and Bening as the President and the lobbyist. A presidential couple like this might even make us want to turn on the nightly news.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 498
Rating : PG-13
Studio : Columbia
Running Time: 1:53

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