It has been a complaint as old as time, that our elected officials do not seem to listen to us, instead seem indebted to wealthy corporations. Their differences are not as apparent to a disillusioned electorate, and as a result, apathy in elections is still a concern among society. In 2006, an unusual mixture of a film took on campaigns and highlight concern about the dangers of electronic voting and the organised chaos of an election campaign, in Man Of The Year.
A stand-up comedian, Dobbs, has decided to run for office. Initially, as a publicity stunt highlighting how much of a joke he thinks the entire process is, and at the behest of his fans who are too fed up with the establishment offerings. His campaign of honesty and humour has struck a chord with the electorate and now he is a more serious contender. Meanwhile, an employee, Eleanor finds a bug in the prestigious Delacroy vote-counting software, could put the legitimacy of the election in jeopardy, yet Eleanor’s warnings to the candidate and her company put her in the deadly ground. How far can this outsider go, and how far will the company go to save its reputation?
Although he was not the first choice for the role, familiarly fun face, Robin Williams, is a comfortable fit for comedian Tom Dobbs, though his comedy differs from the roster of late-night T.V. hosts he’s supposed to be emulating, Williams’s Dobbs still manages to maintain believability, Christopher Walken also prominently appears as Dobbs manager who is concerned with the amount of energy Dobbs is investing in the apparent publicity stunt, and Laura Linney is fitting as researcher turned whistle-blower Elanor. Drawing from the ‘real world’ we have some cameo scenes featuring creative duo Tina Fey and Amy Pohler who are a nice addition. The two politicians Kellogg and Mills both feel generic enough that you could insert in any rising politician of the day and helps gives this film a timeless feel.
Like Downsizing, Man of the Year feels like two or more ideas skilfully combined. Dobb’s campaign is arguably the main draw of the film, as Williams and Co. playfully explore the process, including one scene where Dobbs candid no-secrets-held style of dealing with the reporters gets a great response both on and off the screen. Though this light-hearted feel is counterbalanced by this intense thriller as Elanor realises the error in the harms the integrity of the election, and the company attempts to silence her. It makes for a fun action film if the comedy is not to your taste. Things are further complicated as love blooms between Elanor and Dobbs, making the 1-hour 45-minute runtime feel packed with drama.
Satire has shown the lighter side of politics many times in the past, while thrillers play on our fears for some enthralling action, Man of the Year does both. Man of the Year tackles some key issues and prophesied how an outsider can charm the heart of the electorate. It could be the cast, or it could be that 14 years later the complaints the film raised are still being raised. It attempts more than the average film and I admire its ambition and courage, as Sir Humphry said, “Courageous means this will lose you the election”, but Man of the Year appears to buck this trend.
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