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A charming romantic comedy with political bite, Rob Reiner's American President features strong lead performances and some poignant observations of politics and media in the 1990s. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

With the end of his first term in sight, widowed U.S. President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) knows that overwhelming public support will guarantee his re-election. But when he falls in love with lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening), Shepherd's supporters question the relationship, and his approval ratings drop. As a rival presidential candidate goes on the attack, Shepherd must choose between his political career and his love for Sydney.

Cast & Crew

Michael Douglas
President Andrew Shepherd
Annette Bening
Sydney Ellen Wade
Martin Sheen
A.J. MacInerney
Michael J. Fox
Lewis Rothschild
David Paymer
Leon Kodak
Samantha Mathis
Janie Basdin
John Mahoney
Leo Solomon
Wendie Malick
Susan Sloan
Charles Newirth
Executive Producer
Jeffrey Stott
Executive Producer
Marc Shaiman
Original Music
John Seale
Cinematographer
Robert Leighton
Film Editor
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News & Interviews for The American President

Critic Reviews for The American President

All Critics (57) | Top Critics (19) | Fresh (52) | Rotten (5)

Audience Reviews for The American President

  • Feb 15, 2017
    It's a bit of a ridiculous set-up, but like "The West Wing", it's hard for me not to be charmed by Sorkin's quippy political idealism.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 18, 2013
    I'm sorry, but when I see this film's title, and that Rob Reiner directed the thing, I just can't help but think of "The Princess Bride", or at least something like "When the President Met Sally..." Okay, that "When Harry Met Sally..." thing was a serious stretch, but the point is that if you think Reiner is all that diverse of a filmmaker, when he's not making a legal drama or coming-of-age film, he's making a delightful film about an unlikely romance, and I emphasize, "delightful" when describing an unlikely love story like this because there isn't a scene where Annette Bening's character stashes the President away in a log cabin and breaks his ankles. So yeah, as that "Misery" reference will tell you, my attempts at jokingly associating this film with other efforts by Reiner aren't getting any less stretchy, but let me tell you that I'm hardly making a stretch when I say that this film didn't make it four years without getting kind of awkward. Seriously, it's about a scandal involving a fictional US president, and you know that in 1998, there were some people who associated this film with Bill Clinton, another a scandalous president, and one who you kind of wish was fictional. Speaking of strange similarities, I can't really shake the feeling that they made this film partially to prove that Michael Douglas and Martin Sheen are not the same person, which would be kind of ironic, because in retrospect, this film isn't exactly proving to me that Annette Bening from the '90s to today and a particularly young Annette Bening are the same person. Man, she was kind of cute back in the day, but man, these past couple of years, or at least those stupid glasses, have not been good to her. Oh well, I reckon he's always had a pretty good taste in films, as this nice little '90s flick proves, but not without taking some scratches along the way. Needless to say, there's something distinctly unique about this film which deals with a regular woman beginning a romantic relationship with a fictionalized US president while he's simultaneously working to run a country, but within that refreshing broad premise are plotting details that are not so fresh, hitting more than a few '90s rom-com tropes hard enough to take on some histrionics that would be easier to swallow if the superficial fluff wasn't sometimes jarringly broken up by some kind of a political sharpness. There's a bit of unevenness to this film's thematic weight, which dances between fluffy and politically heavy so jarringly that, while your average audience member isn't likely to be thrown off to the point of being totally repelled from the film, it gets to be kind of difficult to fully figure out just who in the world is being targeted by this film. I suppose the thematic inconsistency isn't as off-putting as I make it sound, but it's still more disconcerting than the pacing unevenness, which is, of course, not too much of a problem, but still noticeable, as the film will dance between rushed to the point of thinning out expository depth that could have fleshed the uniqueness of this story and its characters more, and steady to the point of being kind of repetitious. The film is a little bit uneven, and such inconsistency in theme and momentum is bound to throw off some people, but really, if you think that I'm all but stretching to find particularly notable shortcomings in this film, well, you're right. There really aren't that many errors in storytelling, and what errors it makes, such as the inconsistencies, are hardly glaring, so what threatens this film the most is, of course, its lacking meat, because as intriguing and competently done as this film is, at the end of the day, it's not too much more than a relatively outstanding fluff piece, something that can never be all that outstanding. The film ultimately rewards pretty surely, but such reward value comes from a lot of effort, because there are some serious limitations in weight, and that, alongside conventional areas an inconsistencies, is enough for the final product to run the risk of collapse into underwhelmingness. Of course, like I said, reward value is achieved quite surely, as the film powers through its shortcomings enough to stand out as pretty endearing more often than not, or at least turn in some strengths that aren't necessarily outstanding, but still commendable. Marc Shaiman earned an Oscar nomination for his score for this film, and really, I can't really see, or rather, hear why, as Shaiman's efforts are unevenly used, formulaic and lacking in kick, though that's not to say that I can't still give Shaiman's score quite a deal of compliment, as there is a warmth to it that may make the more overly fluffy moments feel kind of overblown, but just as often help greatly in livening things up, though not quite like Aaron Sorkin. "The West Wing" was not yet unveiled to the world by 1995, so it was through this film when Sorkin showed audiences everywhere that he knows a thing or two about sharp political entertainment, and boy, did he deliver, because if nothing else is sharp about this film, it's Soarkin's script, which has its conventional bits, and cannot completely overshadow natural shortcomings, but whose more political aspects are about as intelligent and intricately approached as they can be by a liberal writer, and whose more fluffy aspects are brought to life by excellent dialogue and colorful characterization that really flavor things up. This film is pretty smart, and that really gets the final product going a relatively long way, yet no matter how sharp Sorkin's efforts are, what can make or break the reward value of a film this fluffy is the sharpness of the directorial execution of a sharp script. Rob Reiner does what he does best with this film: taking a very steady approach to storytelling, which can mean some serious blandness, but can also mean endearing the thoughtfulness, something that is achieved more often than not by Reiner's almost subtle tastes as director, resulting in a light atmospheric color that subtly draws quite a bit of entertainment value, and even proves to be kind of touching at times. If nothing else, Reiner's subtly flavorful atmosphere endears as thoroughly charming, and while that, alone, isn't going to be enough to secure reward value, the color within Reiner's ambitious efforts, combined with the color of Sorkin's ambitious efforts, ignite as serious sharpness that you see only so often in films of this type, resulting in a surprising reward value that is ultimately finalized, not by the offscreen talent, but the onscreen talent. We're looking at fictional figures within a fluff piece, so, of course, the performers aren't being asked to transform into anyone or deliver on all that much of the dramatic range they're known for doing so well, but most every member of this remarkably star-studded cast delivers, with leading man Michael Douglas particularly standing out with an electric charisma, augmented when Douglas and Annette Bening hit the scene together, sharing static chemistry between them that sells the romance which anchors this film. Douglas' and Bening's charm, alone, powers much of the enjoyment value of the final product, but our leads are not the only endearing aspects here, as there is enough sharpness to writing and direction to bypass potential underwhelmingness and ultimately drive the final product to an unexpectedly rewarding point. When it's time to resign, the film leaves behind enough conventionalism, thematic and pacing unevenness, and natural shortcomings to drive a lesser fluff piece into underwhelmingness, but through warm score work by Marc Shaiman, an intelligent and delightfully snappy script by Aaron Sorkin, endearingly thoughtful storytelling by Rob Reiner, and electric charisma and chemistry between leads Michael Douglas and Annette Bening, "The American Product" doesn't simply charm, but compels enough to reward as a thoroughly entertaining and pretty sharp affair. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jun 17, 2012
    This is a very good romantic dramedy. Douglas and Bening put on fine performances and display great chemistry. It is Sorkin's screenplay, however, that makes the movie great. Sorkin does a great job every time he picks up a pen, and this is no exception.
    Sanjay R Super Reviewer
  • Apr 01, 2011
    Sorkin manages to fit brilliant social commentary while creating a charming romance. 'The American President' is a film anyone can enjoy but others will find something deeper than its charm and wit.
    Jonny B Super Reviewer

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