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Primary Colors [1998 film] by Mike Nichols

Primary Colors [1998 film]

by Mike Nichols

Other authors: Kathy Bates, Joe Klein (Original book), Emma Thompson, John Travolta

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451398,892 (3.2)None
Jack Stanton is a virtually unknown Southern governor on a quest for the White House with his strong, savvy and equally ambitious wife, Susan. Running against the odds, the Stantons need all the help they can get from their extremely colorful political team. Together, they take off on a hilarious, heart-wrenching and ultimately history-making roller coaster ride to the top.… (more)



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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.
  schotpot | May 5, 2007 |
In Washington when it opened, I was turned away from a cinema because Primary Colors was an automatic must-see for the Beltway classes. But in a multiplex in California a week or so later, I was able to stretch my legs and arms in all directions and enjoy the immense Lebensraum that extended all around me. This was just as well, since the film is positively snooze-inducing after the first half-hour...

Although billed and hyped as a "satire" on the Clintons' rise to power, it is actually a rather clumsy and sentimental apologia for that rise: a distilled piece of classic Hollywood liberal correctness. A FEW quite funny opening scenes, which bear the imprint of the sparkling Elaine May, soon give place to turgid rationalisations about how politics is a dirty old hardball business, and no place for the squeamish. Well, excuse me, but we already knew this, knew it no less when we grew disgusted with Clinton in his first term.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Guardian, Christopher Hitchens

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mike Nicholsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bates, Kathysecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Klein, JoeOriginal booksecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thompson, Emmasecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Travolta, Johnsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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