Man Of The Year

 
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Written by:Barry Levinson
Starring: Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Lewis Black, Jeff Goldblum, Faith Daniels
Released: March 1, 2007
Grade: C

Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.”  A reference to this Mark Twain quote is made during the Man Of The Year.  It’s ironic because this work of fiction is simply impossible to believe.  Every new event seemed illogical and the further the film went, the more frustrating it became.

Tom Dobbs (Williams) is a comedian with a popular talk-show on television.  It is similar in style to such shows as Real Time With Bill Maher and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.  A presidential election is imminent and Dobbs uses his show to criticise both the Republican and Democratic candidates.  He’s sick of “party politics” and the many lobbyists who donate large sums of money to these candidates for something in return.

An audience member at one of Tom’s shows suggests that he run for president as an independent.  The idea takes off and soon enough, Tom is on the ballot.  It reminded me of when Ross Perot ran and received 19% of the popular vote in the 1992 election (against George Bush and Bill Clinton).

Helping Tom with his campaign is manager, Jack Menken (Walken).  Jack suggests that Tom simply be himself.  Don’t try to get too serious or too political.  Instead, just try to be funny – something that the other candidates cannot offer.  They knew that Tom had no chance of winning the election.  Early polls confirmed that fact.  The purpose of his campaign was to send a message to the two major candidates and their massive fundraising teams.

It all goes pear-shaped when Tom actually wins.  Despite exit-polls giving him zero chance, the computerised voting system declares him a narrow winner.  How you may ask?  There is a glitch in the vote counting software.  The only person who suspects the irregularity is computer programmer Elenaor Green (Linney).  She tries to tell her bosses that there’s a problem but they ignore her – they don’t want the public to know that the computer program is faulty as it will reduce the company’s stock price.

How is it that no one in the entire planet can put two and two together?  With every poll showing that Dobbs had no chance, you’d think someone would be suss.  The plot further disintegrates when Elenaor goes in search of Tom to tell him the truth.  What happens then?  They fall in love.

One of my all-time favourite political comedies is Wag The Dog, released in 1997.  In Dog, the current president becomes involved in a sex-scandal with an under-aged girl just days before the election.  With the help of a Hollywood producer, his team create a fictitious war in Albania to keep the scandal off the front page of the papers.  It was an incredibly witty comedy which earned an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay and best actor (Dustin Hoffman).  I could watch it over and over again.

This may sound hard to believe but Man Of The Year is written and directed by Barry Levinson, the same man who directed as Wag The Dog.  The fact that I love Wag The Dog so much makes Man Of The Year even more disappointing.  I’d given up on it by the half-way mark.  It may be trying to make a point about the American political system but it needed a lot more realism.  I’d like to think that Mark Twain would agree.