Academy Award® Nominee
strong language and sexual references
Starring John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton... View more >
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I am Canadian, the politics concerned have nothing to do with me, but I still loved "Primary Colors", a large scale entertainment that, under its clever skin, gently pokes at Bill Clinton and his wife Hilary. Yet the film is also hilarious, touching and realistic.
Governor Jack Stanton (John Travolta) is running for president. When we first meet him, at a run down inner city school, he is a sweet man: he watches in tears as a dyslexic student (a beautiful cameo by Mykelti Williamson) explains his horror of going to a school that didn't care about his disability. (Surprisingly, we in the audience feel his pain and react like Stanton does) We watch Stanton react, and immediately we fall in love with him. It's as if we were saying, "I am going to vote for this guy"
Then the curtain opens, and we look inside. Stanton is a tubby, donut eating, wife cheating individual who is charming, yes, but flawed just like the rest of us. His wife, Susan (Emma Thompson), looks exactly like Hilary Clinton, yet her presence disarms you. As a couple, we can easily see that the two have big problems: he is cheating, she knows it. There is not one scene in the film where the two are alone together in their bedroom, which is wise: we see the action unfolding around it, which is the real story.
The film's center is Henry (Adrian Lester), the grandson of a civil rights leader (that's the only way the other characters can identify with him) who is pulled onto the presidental campaign. We meet the other campaigners, including a dirt-digging lesbian (Kathy Bates, Oscar worthy), a scheduler (Maura Tierney), and a commentator (Billy Bob Thorton).
Will Jack Stanton win? That isn't completely the story. It is the climax, yet the rest of the film deals with the life inside the campaign: double-crosses, sexual innuendo, suicide, human emotion, illness, and areas like that.
I loved this film because it dealt with the above issues in a way that no other presedential film has, at least that I have seen. Directed by Mike Nichols, who has tackled such memorable films as "The Graduate" and "Working Girl", and bombed with "The Birdcage" (Ironically, the film is being advertised with the title: "From The Director of 'The Birdcage'), he brings a wonderful style to the entire filmthat is purely memorable; his best work in years.
Ditto for John Travolta, who gives his best performance since "Pulp Fiction". His best moment arrives towards the end; after he learns that Henry is dropping the campaign, replies: "No, I don't accept your request", and finishes with "I'm gonna win this thing." It's a tour-de-force Travolta moment; hopefully the Academy will remember him, and this film, and give it the treatment it deserves.
Picture: 3 A satisfactory picture with good blacks; there is a lot of film grain on the print I watched, especially in the white scenes.
Sound: 3 Although the film is mixed in all three formats, the film is mostly mono; slight surround effects are apparent in dts, but no split surrounds. Dialouge is clear, however.
Photography: 5 A bang up job by Nichols, who uses Super 35 for his compositions. A wonderfully framed picture that is not afraid to use the entire frame. Watch for a great shot twenty minutes in, where Nichols moves the camera 180 degrees around his characters on an airport runway.
145 minutes. Rated R for language, and mild violence. firstname.lastname@example.org ICQ#4339199
After all the hoopla this country generates regarding the President's indiscretions, it's no wonder that a movie such as this draws a good crowd. And, since the commotion is not likely to end soon, it may be possible that an Academy Award for NEXT year may come from it. Kathy Bates steals the show. She has my vote for best supporting actress. See it and you'll agree, I think. Big bad Johnny T. does a more-than-fair Bill Clinton. He's come a long way since "Grease." I can see a bit of Hillary in Emma Thompson's effort. The story is fairly believable, though it leaves several basic questions unanswered. Without ANY special effects and memorable soundtrack, it's difficult to predict any other winning graces in the film. Wait and see the video when it's released in the stores. By then, it may be closer in fact to the mirror image it attempts to portray.
This movie is so close to reality that it is scary. The acting by all the participants was exceptional. If it were not so close to reality it would much more enjoyable. Note: The author is "anonymous". We can see why: a truly MUST SEE movie!! ****
I have not read the novel by "Anonymous" Joe Klein, and I wouldn't have picked the film "Primary Colors" as my first choice of the weekend, but I was pleasantly engaged.
First, John Travolta is right-on as Jack Stanton -- the Clintonesque quiet yet raspy drawl, the gut, the "tell me your pain" empathy. Emma Thompson is almost as strong as first lady-to-be Susan Stanton. In one scene in which this stolidly patient wife discovers another dalliance, Thompson snaps magnificently: it's as if her soul is slipping out of her. Her anger and then her grief are stunning to watch.
She'll probably be forgotten by the end of the year, but Kathy Bates should get nominated for supporting actress. As Libby the "Dust Buster," her character protects (as much as possible) the name of Jack Stanton, a friend from the 70's. Bates brings a literally crazy abandon to Libby, who is one of the few characters who is even concerned about taking and passing a morality test.
I've read in other reviews about a flaw in narration. Henry is the campaign worker through whose eyes we see most of the action. The trouble is that Adrian Lester turns in a performance that is solid but not dynamic. Sure, no one wants to try to out-act Bates and Travolta and Thornton, but Henry never shows us the passion that he claims to hold in his heart; he keeps it in his head. What causes him to stop working for one politician, to forfeit his relationship with a beautiful woman, to change his mind so easily when Jack Stanton asks him to?
"Primary Colors" sports a superb cast, down to the extras. Mike Nichols' last few efforts have been strong and solid, and this adds to the string.
A friend of mine said she could not get her husband to go see PRIMARY COLORS because he knew it was about a character "modeled" after our current President. Such thinking will have him miss a movie about people like you and I, the people who get involved in peripheral politics.
If it was just about the candidate and his wife (and what performances!), it would not have had the strong connections to the audience. The audience is not connecting with the man who runs for president, it is connecting with Henry (campaign manager) and Libby (Cathy Bates' character - a campaign "internal auditor") ... the audience ponders the questions about compromise on a path for a goal, about the vessel into which we place our belief and energy, about the paths we're willing to take when a moral dilemma poses a roadblock to that dream.
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN was not just about a President who made choices believing he'd never get caught - it was about people who discovered a President who made poor choices and had possibility of CATCHING him and what they were going to do about it. It was about people who had to sit and decide to what extent they would compromise OR sacrifice to do what they felt they had to do ...
PRIMARY COLORS does not dissect the why's of Jack or Susan Stanton's decision - we the audience have no idea where Susan came from in terms of "family of origin," why she married him and how she came to choose the path she has chosen. We meet this couple where they are TODAY. The people we do know about are Henry and Libby. We need to know about them because more of us are like Henry and Libby, on smaller scale, perhaps, but we're more like them. Some of us want to hold onto our dreams as long as we can and may sell out, feeling we sell out a "little" vs "big" to be part of that history; others, like Libby, if not exactly like Libby, find that the selling out has a serious price.
And there are people all in-between: People like Billy Bob Thornton's character who take politics as another form of business which has to be run and marketed properly, and a campaign coordinator/administrative support who winds up in bed with Henry in one of the most naturally nonchalant and practical sexual involvement between two people in movies ... can you see Linda Fiorentino in that role?
Go see the movie. It is worth a visit to the theater. Watch the stars and the moon moving around the candidate sun ... see how they reflect the light according to their belief and commitment. (And really listen to Libby when she uses this analogy ...)
John Travolta and Emma thompson starred inh this filmmbased on the novel which is a satire on President Bill Clinton. I like the way the novel is being handled in terms of turing it into a movie with a strong appealing cast. "Primary Colors" is a smart movie.
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