The Candidate - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Candidate Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ May 2, 2014
A left-wing lawyer runs for the Senate, but the campaign forces him to make concessions in his values.
Robert Redford, with his natural sense of integrity and propriety, is at his best in this film because we get to see that integrity slowly crumble. The change is subtle -- sometimes too subtle, to the point that the film's plot isn't fully realized -- but it's there. The film's plot follows McKay's campaign, and as the process of getting elected strips McKay of his principles, the political process is appropriately satirized. The best part of the film is the famous last line: "What do we do now?" which is a quote echoed by many a modern politician.
Overall, while I think the film's subtlety worked against it at points, the overall message is ahead of its time.
Super Reviewer
½ July 29, 2012
A satirical and modern political chronicle.
Super Reviewer
½ May 7, 2007
A lot of fun. Reminds me of Bulworth, but not quite as good.
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2010
I recently re-watched this movie, and I didn't like it so much, but if you are interested in politics, unlike me, you'll like it better than I do. Redford gives a good performance, and he's even kind of funny at times. The main problem is that in most scenes there are lots of people talking all at once. Overall, it's a good story and all, though.
Super Reviewer
January 6, 2012
Subtle and highly effective direction, combined with a darkly cynical and sometimes comical tone and script, make it a memorable, if not entirely perfect political drama. The performances are all strong, with Robert Redford having the ideal charisma and depth for the role (I couldn't help but think of Clooney in Ides of March). It explores political themes and pitfalls better than some other films, but it still has a political bias that holds it back, though not to an extent that the movie is ruined (such as the horrendous The Contender).
August 15, 2009
Good look at the insanity of politics. Redford does a good job and the film's pacing is such that you are never overtly hit over the head with how the man becomes less important than the "candidate".
June 22, 2009
A funny and serious look into the ways of our democracy. Very interesting. For a better way, vote McKay!
½ October 8, 2015
The Candidate is disappointing. Redford hardly comes across as someone that can win a Senate race. His character displays little-to-no drive which makes it hard to sympathize with his frustrations. The movie is not helped by a very poor DVD transfer. I was surprised to see that it was nominated for best sound since I found it to be very poor in that respect. The Candidate is not an awful movie, but when I tried to write a review recommending it, I found I couldn't.
½ July 19, 2015
A sharp eyed, searing indictment of the the absurdity of the American election process in the era of elctronic media; which has lost almost none of it's sting even as politics and media have grown more corrosive. Reford is near the apex of his charms, as Bill Mckay, a principled lawyer who slowly watches all his lofty principles get dragged through the murk of a Senate campiagin. A funny, invlolving and alarming satire, which only fails to develop some of it's supporting characters (Karen Carlson) beacuse it's structure has the feel of being trapped in the malestrom of the campaign trail alongside Redford.
July 18, 2015
I had never watched this but glad I did. Not much has changed with American politics since 1972, sad to say.
June 16, 2015
Only recently does it seem like the political world has been soiled by entertainment media. HBO's "Veep", created by the satirically minded Armando Iannucci, is a brutal comedy series that details the day to day life of the vice president. Don't expect to see an all-American woman pining for a better America, because you get a narcissist hungry for power. Netflix's "House of Cards" makes politics seem as dirty as the crime world, with elected officials offing enemies left and right, utilizing corruption for the sake of unbridled authority.
In days past, there was something mystical about a candidate - the one we loved (not the Nixon of the race) seemed to be a sort of god who could do no wrong. Look at JFK, FDR; they were far from perfect, but their image, their reputation, turned them into unspeakably untouchable icons. But it seems post-Vietnam, post-Watergate, America has turned into a hotbed of negativity. We don't trust our sacred politicians like we used to. And so "The Candidate" is more relevant than ever. In 1972, the U.S. was just starting to turn into a bunch of pessimists. But now, we regard many of our elected officials in the same way we do the villain of a political thriller: evil, devilishly evil. But smart.
"The Candidate" is part black comedy, part political drama, all stitched together by an endlessly scathing screenplay and a finely tuned performance from Robert Redford. It isn't so much an emotional film as it is a witty commentary regarding the election process, and how most candidates go from freshly idealistic to power hungry after a mere few months of campaigning. The film doesn't tap into our fears in the same way "All the President's Men" did, or how "Three Days of the Condor" told us not to trust anyone sitting in office. Rather, it serves as a thought-provoker that makes us wonder if the smiles governmental hopefuls put on display are actually genuine. It's a bleak, bleak, movie, not so much because it is starkly negative but because it prefers to think that getting elected is a popularity contest, not a case of may the best man win.
Redford plays Bill McKay, a 30-ish attorney who, on a whim, decides to run for Senate. Incumbent Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter) is slated to win - McKay, you see, has been approached by political specialist Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle), who only wants McKay to act as a Democratic figure, not as serious competition. Jarmon, after all, cannot run unopposed. McKay knows he has little by way of chance, but, knowing he has the opportunity to spread his ideals around the state, does everything he can to potentially find success. And as the son of the former governor (Melvyn Douglas), with, not to mention, good looks that have captured much of the female vote, his possibilities may be stronger than Lucas could have ever imagined. Problem is, if McKay really wants to win, he'll have to, in some ways, trade many of his morals in favor of popularity.
"The Candidate" is filmed as if it were a documentary, following McKay around until his positive nature completely breaks down and sardonic ickiness takes over. As the film begins, he is a charismatic intellect who has a way with words (he is a lawyer, after all). But by the end, he can hardly control himself from laughing attacks when faced with the bullshit of a television promotion. The more he campaigns, the more he becomes disgusted with the idea of politics - the officials are snakes who know how to manipulate the public. Morals, he finds out, are of little importance to his peers. Sounding good, looking good, speaking well, being agreeable, going against the grain of the now-hated person he's trying to rob the job of - those are the things that matter. You can forget about making the country a better place.
Larner's Academy Award winning screenplay hits all the right notes - not mean but wicked, funny, but not overtly so. It isn't a comedy as much as it is a drama that realizes how ridiculous campaigning is, and it cackles along with McKay's increasing concerns. There is a great little scene that finds McKay in the back of a limo, reciting old lines from previous speeches. But after each sound bite he makes a sound of disgust, whether it be a gag, a cough, or a scoff. The sequence is subtle, yet it speaks volumes; have we gotten to a point in our election process where a particular quote, a particular fragment of a speech, matters more than the overall goal of a candidate?
The film also contains one of Redford's finest performances, capturing his distinctly everyman appeal while heightening the sly humor he can easily project just by uttering a single line. He is the kind of actor that can deliver a line like "We don't have shit in common" and still remain likable; he is the kind of actor that can look unfazed by the presence of a cameoing Natalie Wood and not seem like a complete jerk. In "The Candidate", we don't necessarily identify with him. Instead, we jump onto his back as he maneuvers through the jangling dishonesty of the election process.
Here is a movie more interested in saying something than showcasing how great its actors are, how great its direction is. "The Candidate" doesn't move you; it causes you to think. And as the race for the presidency continually heats up these days, it is compelling viewing that has hardly aged in what it has to say.
April 10, 2015
Enjoying watching a old VHS tonight of this in preparation for Cylvia Clinton's ... 'er Hillary Hayes' announcement on Sunday.
½ February 7, 2015
Even if I wasn't a political junkie who has done campaigns, I still would have rated this film at a 3.5 or 4.
½ April 10, 2011
What a sneaky little movie :)
½ October 28, 2009
A lawyer running a "free legal assistance" operation in Southern California, is convinced to run for Senator. What makes this movie so good today is being able to compare the politics of 37 years ago, when the movie was made, with today, 2009. You'll see how the priorities of employment, the economy, labor, the poor, homelessness, uneducated, and the hungry have been handled by our federal government from then to now. Highly recommend this movie... for enjoyment if nothing else.
August 24, 2014
The movie is still spot on 40 years later. Great portrayal of campaigns and modern politics.
April 6, 2014
And it still works beautifully.
January 27, 2014
Much like Ritchie's similarly underrated 'Smile, The Candidate is shamelessly skewering, this time on the lunacy and excessive scheming that make up the US political machine.
½ September 27, 2012
A great political film.
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