The American President


Have you had enough of politics? Don’t worry because this is pure fantasy escapism. I mean, it’s a wonderful look at an idealised President and his incredibly professional and dedicated White House staff. So it doesn’t come close to reality. But it is a lot of fun and is very romantic. It’s also the movie that spawned my favourite TV show of all time, “The West Wing” (as I mentioned in my post about “The Social Network“).

Talking of Russia yesterday somehow, for some reason, reminded me that there was a Presidential Election this week in the US. I therefore thought I’d post “The American President” (on Netflix). Aaron Sorkin wrote it and then went on to use many of the themes, ideas and characters to create his monumentally successful TV series.

The idea for the film came from Robert Redford who wanted to star as the President. Sorkin was then picked to write the screenplay. However, when Rob Reiner came on as director (he had recently directed Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men”) Redford left over the classic Hollywood excuse, “creative differences”. In this case it might be true as Redford supposedly wanted to focus on the romance and Reiner wanted to focus on the politics.

Michael Douglas plays a widowed President who falls for Anette Benning’s environmental lobbyist during an election year. Both are simply wonderful. The supporting cast are also fantastic. Martin Sheen plays the Chief of Staff – he obviously got a promotion somewhere down the line as he went on to play the President in “The West Wing”. Michael J. Fox plays the Domestic Policy Advisor, based on George Stephanopoulos who served under Clinton. The rest of the cast are also great and many went on to play similar roles in the TV show.

Another tie in with yesterday’s movie is that this also co-stars another one of the leads from “Jaws”. Richard Dreyfuss plays the Republican opponent in the up-coming election.

It’s brilliantly written by Sorkin and his witty, quick-fire dialogue shines, as always. Made in 1995, it deals with several of the political hot potatoes of the day, especially gun control and climate change. It’s sad to see that there’s not been a lot of progress on those issues in the last 25 years. I mean, it’s only been a quarter of a century!

If you love “The West Wing”, you’ll love this. If you love this, you’ll love “The West Wing”.

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