Where I Watched it: Peacock
English Audio Description?: Yes
I should probably say that the answer to the question of “Who is your favorite actor?” For me is Brian Cox. I always think it’s important to be able to honestly address bias, because I walk into any Brian Cox film thinking I’m about to watch a genius at work. I’ve loved this man forever. I’d marry him if he could just promise to randomly perform Shakespeare in his Scottish accent every day. He’s a national, no, international treasure and it’s a crime that he’s not an Oscar nominee for a previous work already.
That being said, even though I’m a fan, I had no idea this film existed, or that he was in it until I saw it being pushed on peacock. He shares the screen with Jodi Turner Smith (who is the actual star), as well as John Cena, Ann Dowd, Luke Kirby, and Stephen Lang. That’s a pretty stacked cast for a film just unceremoniously dropped on peacock. you’d think john Cena alone would have warranted a theatrical run. he does, after all, play a Presidential candidate and if that hasn’t intrigued you, I don’t know what else will.
This has a bit of that Spotlight vibe, as Turner-Smith plays a reporter on the lower end of the totem pole, looking to break out in her mostly white male newsroom. She comes across a story about a school in West Virginia that is going to 4 days a week due to lack of funding, and it’s a predominantly minority school. Even though they asked me to believe such a school could exist in West Virginia, I went with it. But, her editor (Lang), wants more clickbait, tells her no one cares about minority schools, and people in West Virginia don’t read the news. So, she’s supposed to write click bait about things to take to your dorm.
However, this paper also employs a legendary Bob Woodward type, who takes this girl under his wing. This would be the Brian Cox effect. he plays his usual brash, hyper intelligent role, like a do-gooder version of Logan Roy. The two of them together work on the story while there’s also an election happening. Turner-Smith’s other half (Luke Kirby) is actually working for this former Olympian who has announced a run as an Independent candidate (john Cena), which puts him against a longtime politician also trying to get in the White House (Ann Dowd).. But, a scandal starts being uncovered that could destroy this election.
It’s not quite All The President’s Men, but for a 2022 film, it seems to track very much in a political climate that could be ours. It might be prophetic in some parts, and then taking liberties in others. While it doesn’t break new ground, it does well with the formula given, and this cast shows up. you know I’m going to tell you that Brian Cox is great here, but so is ann Dowd, another highly underrated actor, who should receive an apology from the Academy for not being nominated for last year’s Mass (and really, also for Compliance a few years ago).
Turner-Smith has the somewhat normal role, though they give her a family backstory to push her character’s range. Kirby is fine in his role, but he has far more to do on The Marvelous Ms Maisel. And, while this might be hard for you to hear, john Cena is actually perfectly cast in this. His role is really specific, as he needs to be and look like an athletic Olympian, which he does, and he’s charming enough to pull off this Washington outsider thing he’s got going on. Basically, he’s not supposed to come off as a polished politician, but rather a famous person who can work a camera. And he does that very well.
I cannot tell you why this film was basically deposited on peacock with no fanfare. It’s much better than that, it just doesn’t create anything new. The audio description here was a bit lacking for me, as I went a long time sometimes without hearing the narrator. I know this film has quite a bit of dialogue, but even in some moments, a brief addition of description to flesh out a character’s appearance, a room, a place, or anything else we’re missing because we can’t see would have made this film more well rounded instead of feeling like a stage play with a bare bones set.
I know it’s Oscar season, and there are 100 films vying for your attention, but the Independent should be at least in the running to miss out on nominations. Like, this could be one of those films like the French Dispatch or Mass from last year where it was in the conversation, but just didn’t make the cut. It’s at least that good, though to be clear, Mass is still better, and you should watch that.
Final Grade: B+