The Candidate (1972)

MICHAEL RITCHIE

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.  USA, 1972, .  Screenplay by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , .  Academy Awards 1972.  

Terrific political satire that takes place during a shift in the political machine being affected by the world of television coverage. Robert Redford plays an idealistic California lawyer who is encouraged to run as a democratic candidate for the Senate against an incumbent Republican, the intention to bring good press to the liberal party despite the fact that he has no chance of winning. The appeal for this low-key guy who witnessed the political career of his father (Melvyn Douglas, as always marvelous at mischief) as a former governor of the state, is that if he’s going to lose he might as well be as radical as he pleases. This means that this handsome, intelligent man is visiting unionized workplaces and talking to aimless hippies about their ability to change the future while his previously confident opponent preaches the usual rhetoric about individuality and the American Way, watching numbers change in the polls and eventually willing to treat Redford like an admirable foe. Intelligent conversations and sturdy direction that never tries to get too flashy are a real plus in this film, not to mention the gemlike performances by the likes of Allen Garfield and Peter Boyle, while the cynical ending is basically the kickoff point for all the politically-minded films of the seventies (the ones that weren’t inspired by Watergate or Deep Throat, anyway). Still engaging despite all the copycats that have followed, and Redford’s emotional unavailability was rarely again this endearing.

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