Based on the novel by Anonymous (a.k.a. political reporter Joe Klein) and released when the Monica Lewinsky scandal was in full swing, Primary Colors may have been a case of too much, too soon for many moviegoers, who preferred the real-life Clinton crisis over the movie's thinly disguised "Clintonesque" comedy. The general public felt that the film was exploiting the president's indiscretions, and as a result one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 1998 was a box-office disappointment. But when considered apart from the Clinton scandals and judged on its own considerable merits, this superb comedy-drama provides an illuminating, insightful, and frequently hilarious look at the harsh realities of presidential politics. John Travolta stars as Jack Stanton, a presidential hopeful whose campaign is challenged by dual dilemmas: how to squelch a scandal involving the candidate's alleged sex with an underage girl, and how to handle information that could potentially ruin Stanton's opponent (superbly played by Larry Hagman). Stanton's wife (Emma Thompson) stands by her man despite awareness of his infidelities, but his loyal campaign planners (played by Billy Bob Thornton, Maura Tierney, and promising newcomer Adrian Lester) experience a crisis of conscience. So does one of the Stantons' oldest friends (Kathy Bates, in an Oscar-nominated role), whose sense of betrayal and lost idealism proves too much to bear. Masterfully adapted by director Mike Nichols and his former-comedy-partner-turned-screenwriter, Elaine May, Primary Colors plays like a sophisticated comedy with loads of memorable scenes and dialogue, but it sneaks up on you with devastating dramatic impact. Anchored by Travolta's superb performance (which is reminiscent of Clinton without being a cheap impersonation), the movie presents a story of great moral complexity and leaves viewers to contemplate their own reactions to the volatile and ethically complicated game of modern politics. --Jeff Shannon
Director(s): Mike Nichols
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 29 nominations.
- R (Restricted)
- 2,398 Views
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