MAN OF THE YEAR
Popular TV comedian Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) has made a career out of skewering politicians and speaking the mind of the exasperated nation on his talk show. One night a flip comment about the poverty of the party political system and maybe him standing for President - unaligned to any party - ignites a grassroots movement that puts him on track to the White House. Hot on the campaign trail with his manager (Christopher Walken), he debates the two other Presidential candidates on TV, saying exactly what frustrated voters have often thought. The new computerized voting system developed by Delacroy delivers him victory, but Delacroy staffer Eleanor Green (Laura Linney) has discovered a critical little fault that makes the result invalid. She puts her life in danger as she tries to tell Dobbs the truth, even though she isn't sure she should.
Review by Louise Keller:
Politics, big business and legitimacy are the themes of Man of the Year, which begins as an intriguing, if unbelievable political satire before letting fly into more successful thriller territory. It's as though Robin Williams is stuck half way between comedy and drama as the stand up comic who becomes the President elect. There is little of the sparkling Williams of old, who can throw straight lines and make them curl. Instead, he seems jaded, a little like the political system that Barry Levinson tries to satirise. There are some sharp and funny lines, but the satire does not dig deeply enough, nor does Williams enthrall.
Unexpectedly, the most credible and satisfying part of the storyline is the subplot in which Laura Linney's voting soft-ware analyst is discredited and hunted down in a bid to curb damage control. Linney exudes decency and the scene after Eleanor has been forcibly given a cocktail of potent drugs, when she loses it at work in a telling show of paranoia, is physically painful to watch. Nebulous scripting hinders the credible development of the relationship between Eleanor and Dobbs, but Linney makes us care for her, and she becomes the symbol of hope, honesty and truth.
Christopher Walken is good value as Dobb's manager Jack ('I'm the first showbiz management to handle a president,') and lights up all his scenes. 'Are you ready for a pina-colonic?' jests Dobbs as he visits Jack in hospital. Two of my favourite lines come from Williams' seemingly adlib patter: 'Buddhist or Jewish... you can sit and wait for things to go on sale,' and with reference to Angelina Jolie 'Just wet her lips and stick her somewhere'. From Comedy Store to the White House is a steep ride, and in the process, Man of the Year instills in us the chilling fact that the perception of legitimacy is more important that legitimacy itself.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I approached this film with trepidation, having seen a part of the trailer; what a disservice the trailer makers have done to it. Perhaps in trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator for the film's humour, they have spliced together a silly porridge that does disservice to the film's integrity and its tone. Don't be put off; Barry Levinson has engineered a crafty politically set comedic drama that appeals to anyone with a decent political bone in their body. It's not a simple genre film, and some will find it complicated to digest for that reason, but if you're up for a bit of intelligent stimulation, this will reward.
Party politics is a shit way to run a democracy and Tom Dobbs shows why. But more than this, the film's real strength is in story and its anchorage in character. Robin Williams finds a wonderful centre for Tom Dobbs which carries him through the film. Laura Linney is her usual vulnerable and wonderful self as the morally centred Eleanor, risking all for truth and fair play while wondering whether the ends should actually justify the means. This gives us a chance to participate in the moral juggle, making the film interactive in the best meaning of the word.
Christopher Walken manages to make the same seem new as the worldly wise manager suddenly shifting from handling a comic to the President (same job, though) and Jeff Goldblum is a standout as the sleazy executor of the corporate Delacroy will. If these corporate characters seem a tad overdone, we forgive the largesse for the sake of economy.
The moral dilemma is sweet and makes Man of the Year more satisfying, thought provoking, relevant and touching than we might expect and a great piece of entertainment as well.
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MAN OF THE YEAR (M)
CAST: Robin Williams, Laura Linney, Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, David Alpay
PRODUCER: Barry Levinson, James G. Robinson
DIRECTOR: Barry Levinson
SCRIPT: Barry Levinson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dick Pope
EDITOR: Blair Daily, Steven Weisberg
MUSIC: Graeme Revell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stefania Cella
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 1, 2007