Sunday, September 13, 2009

The American President (1995) [PG-13] *****

President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) is a liberal Democrat from Wisconsin. He's starting the last year of his first term in office, so he's basically running for reelection. He's a widower - his wife died of cancer during the campaign - and he has a twelve-year-old daughter. Both he and his Chief of Staff, A.J. MacInerney (Martin Sheen) fear that his narrow victory was the result of a sympathy vote, and that he will have an uphill struggle to get reelected.

Now Pres. Shepherd is trying to get a watered-down crime bill passed in Congress, while the environmental lobby wants him to support a tough bill calling for a twenty-percent reduction in greenhouse gases. The bill is championed by the Global Defense Council, and the GDC's chief Leo Solomon (John Mahoney) has hired a political operative by the name of Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening), to lobby the White House. However, when Pres. Shepherd meets Sydney he falls for her, and they begin a passionate romance, which gives right-wing, family-values conservatives like Senator Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfuss) an election-year opportunity. As the President's public support erodes, he must acknowledge that his romance with Sydney is damaging him politically, while the political deals he must make to get his crime bill passed could destroy the romance.

The screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin (West Wing TV series, Charlie Wilson's War) and excellently directed by Rob Reiner. Douglas and Bening have great chemistry, and the supporting cast is outstanding, including Michael J. Fox, Anna Devere Smith, Samantha Mathis, David Paymer, Joshua Malina and Shawna Waldron. The film was nominated for five Golden Globes, and Marc Shaiman's musical score was nominated for an Oscar. If you enjoy politically-themed romantic comedy-dramas like Dave with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver, or Speechless with Michael Keaton and Geena Davis, then you won't want to miss The American President.

Labels: comedy, drama, politics, romance
Internet Movie Database
Metacritic 67/100
Tomatometer (critics=90, viewers=77)
Blu-ray