Primary Colors - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Primary Colors Reviews

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October 26, 2016
Back in 1998 'Primary Colors' wasn't a box office hit, making only $52,090,187 worldwide, but that doesn't mean the movie was and is bad. Other way round, because I think its a really good movie that takes you on a political adventure. The movie received mostly positive reviews and holds a strong 80% as show above. Great cast and great performances makes this motion picture a enjoyable experience.
October 16, 2016
A clever & targeted film about the campaign of Jack Stanton played by John Travolta but it takes about three seconds to know it's really about the Bill Clinton Presidential Campaign.

I can't believe any one individual would back such a dishonest & sleazy leader despite whether it's Clinton or not but this film goes to show that many, many do.

Gives insight into the true circus which is know in America as the Presidential Primaries. It was an intriguing study of the behind the scenes of this world & the personalities.
½ May 12, 2016
Primary Colors is the last collaboration movie of Nichols and May with Mike Nichols as the director, and Elaine May as the writer. It stars John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, and Adrian Lester in a film à clef that's actually based on the book with the same name that is somewhat about Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign, but with different character names. I was pretty much looking forward to this film as this is the last time that Nichols and May worked together in a film, and as for this film, this is just as well done as The Birdcage. John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Adrian Lester give out some great performances, and Kathy Bates gives a fun time of acting the way that she played the character without going over the top. It gives out a lot of jokes that get a laugh out of me, and it's very clever in how American politics work. The movie convinces me of why I should vote for Jack Stanton as it does a good job of showing his good side in the ways that he does it. There are some interesting twists as you usually see from an actual presidential campaign, and I was curious to see where it was going. The only flaws that I can think of are that there is a brief romance that came out of nowhere and the satire here is not as on point as it's trying to be. Even so, Primary Colors is a very interesting film that I wish to see more of the collaboration of Nichols and May.
½ February 11, 2016
Although tiresome, some fine performances from John Travolta, Kathy Bates and Emma Thompson makes this mild political comedy - barely - watchable.
December 10, 2015
A fine book turned into a fine film, with wit, pace and charm; Travolta and Thompson give outstanding performances, but then so does the entire supporting cast as well.
Super Reviewer
November 23, 2015
Isn't sure whether to be a satire or drama, but the supporting cast and the script are so good that it doesn't matter.
October 3, 2015
Fantastic acting. Really fantastic. Allison Janey make me shriek at the beginning. She's amazing. Kathy Bates really brought it home towards the end. Overall, the movie was just kinda interesting though. eeeeeh.
May 27, 2015
This is possibly John Travolta's finest performance! The best political comedy I have seen!
½ May 18, 2015
A fun watch with very good performances,,,,,one of the better modern day political dramas.
May 16, 2015
With the 2016 Presidential election on the horizon, it is interesting to go back and look at some films which show the campaign process. Using the Democratic Party as a platform, Primary Colors is a satirical political dramedy about the inner workings of a candidacy. There are obvious links to the Bill Clinton presidential run in 1992 and with Hilary Clinton looking like a viable candidate for 2016 the film takes on a new relevance. Two other films mentioned in recent reviews touch upon similar topics: the documentary The War Room (1993, Chris Hegedus) and the political thriller The Ides of March (2011, George Clooney). It is suggested that audiences watch these films as well. Primary Colors is unique in that it uses a comedic angle to critique American politics. It is also refreshing that the film stays within one political party and one election - the primary election, or the election which decides who will be chosen as a certain political party's candidate for the general presidential election between the major political parties. The film contains a fantastic hook at the beginning with an adult literacy meeting (just watch and listen). However, the film runs long and gets very drama-laden and melodramatic towards the end. It abandons its light-hearted feel, which is a mistake that leaves viewers wondering what happened to the funny satire. Mike Nichols is a great director whose credits include Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), The Graduate (1967), and more recently Charlie Wilson's War (2007); but Nichols piles on too much final act melodrama for Primary Colors to be considered a great movie. Nevertheless, Billy Bob Thornton and Kathy Bates make the film very watchable in key supporting roles. Adrian Lester who plays the idealistic aide is also very good (he should be more active in today's cinema). Emma Thompson is memorable, but not realistic as the long-suffering wife of John Travolta's philandering politician. Travolta is riding the crest of a late-nineties career upswing since 1994's Pulp Fiction directed by Quinton Tarantino put him back on the Hollywood playing field; it would unfortunately be a short-lived winning streak for Travolta who would later sink back into the Hollywood doldrums with his epic box-office bomb Battlefield Earth (2000, Roger Christian). Finally, honorable mention goes to Larry Hagman as the reluctant rival candidate; Hagman makes everything he's in better.
April 8, 2015
A solid political film directed by one of the greats Mike Nichols. John Travolta took some time to really get used to but if he was going for a Clinton like character he did it great. Emma Thompson is magnificent as ever as well as Kathy Bates. It has some nice moments but it never felt like a great Mike Nichols film just a solid one
November 12, 2014
The story of Bill Clinton's campaign for the presidency, thinly disguised as fiction. John Travolta is great as Clinton (but no oscar, he has never received even one), Emma Thompson is memorable as Hillary, Billy Bob Thornton and Kathy Bates (in a memorable role) are advisors, with Larry Hagman as a rival candidate. Well crafted, very engaging, the story of the impossible dream achieved.
½ August 26, 2014
Its palette isn't primary: It's nuanced with numerous secondary shadings.
July 27, 2014
This movie is based on a work of fiction by Joe Klein that very obviously draws heavily from the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign. So here we get John Travolta doing his best Clinton impersonation, accent and all with Emma Thompson as Hillary and Billy Bob Thornton as a character clearly based on James Carville. I love politics and elections so of course I am a big fan of this movie. I think it did a good job of telling a story of what a primary campaign looks like from the inside and from the perspective of people with various roles in the campaign. It also captured the complexity of someone like Bill Clinton who could be simultaneously incredibly captivating and frustrating. Just a really fun movie to watch if you are a political junkie like I am.
April 23, 2014
Elaine May's script is brilliant, and Kathy Bates is amazing, just incredible. John Travolta is good, despite being miscast. Emma Thompson and even Billy Bob Thornton is good. It is so rewarding to see a movie with smart writing that doesn't underestimate the ability of the audience to grasp the complexities. The cherry on top: this picture is a f (C)4ing hoot!
½ January 27, 2014
i like the smart and warm black guy Adrian Lester.
½ January 3, 2014
Mike Nichols presents a political satire PRIMARY COLORS, which came timely during Bill Clinton's infamous Lewinsky scandal and impeachment in 1998. So it might boost the publicity then, but 15 years later, when our memories fade, the film actually has weathered pretty good, narrating from a Black young novice Henry (Lester)'s eyes, who assists Governor Jack Stanton (Travolta)'s presidential campaign for the democrats, initially Henry thinks Jack is different from other politicians because he viscerally cares about adult literacy and dyslexia, but when he gets closer to him, the stain of Jack's personal life is far more reprehensible and the conniving political game is far too scurvy for an idealist like him.

With a light touch, the film sets its campaign process in a vibrant tempo, benignly portrays Jack as a zestful candidate who canvasses and panders to his voters with great facility (through the different connotations from his body gestures and a memorable slapstick cameo from Allison Janney) in spite of the relatively youthful and uninitiated team. Then when Jack's wife Susan (Thompson) comes into the scene, the placid surface cannot dissemble the cracks beneath as soon as we detect Jack's philandering nature. A sex scandal is well-expected, which invites the troubleshooter Libby (an open lesbian and a close friend of Jack and Susan since college), plays by a fiery Kathy Bates, a devil-may-care warrior can track down any sources and break them, Bates is well-deserved for this hard-earned Oscar nominated performance, her wrangle with Jack and Susan about the integrity she cannot forsake is purely magnificent.

Emma Thompson is perpetually excellent, especially under Nichol's guidance, a perfect wife behind a successful man mode is such a cinch for her and she nails it with much more nuances to accentuate her vulnerability and snobbishness. As for Travolta, it has hitherto been his last decent offer (if one can count out his droll transvestite transformation in HAIRSPRAY 2007, 8/10), underneath his cordial impression, his true color does not betray easily even in the hardest times, maybe that's why makes him a successful politician. And Adrian Lester is the audience's proxy, a wide-eyed enthusiast undergoes the tidal wave throughout, and an adamant observer which cogently influences his sea change in altitude through the screen to the viewers, bookends with the ending's artificial vagueness which also corresponds with the beginning, the same handshakes, different undertones.

Forget about its reality allusions if you can, PRIMARY COLORS qualifies itself as a better-than-expected dissection of what politicians are made of, we are all characters with flaws, sometimes moralities and political expertise should be discriminated in order to see through the murky smoke screen and select the credentialed ones instead of stalking horses. As for most of us, the most substantial message is that there is no win-win situation or whatsoever in the political composition.
December 8, 2013
One of my favorite political movies. It was brilliant. The cast was amazing.
½ November 23, 2013
While it's not as funny as I think it could've been, it packs plenty of laughs and shows how much of a joke politics is nowadays. John Travolta and Adrien Lester do surprisingly good jobs as their characters and the movie even has a lot of emotion in it. Overall a good satire.
November 21, 2013
Great political movie
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