Politic-a-Thon 2: Bulworth Review

Next up in the Politic-a-thon is another film about the nature of political campaigns and the destructive nature of them on the candidate, with this film focusing on the mental breakdown a candidate has when running for re-election with the film being Bulworth. Honestly, considering how prominently a left wing actor Warren Beatty is, I’m surprised I haven’t come across one of his films earlier, this one in particular. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of this film until the Todd in the Shadows One Hit Wonderland episode on Ghetto Superstar but, after doing some research, one of the staples of the blog-a-thon has come up again, Aaron Sorkin (I didn’t even plan for another one of his films to come up, it just happened) and this is another great script he was involved with in a really good film.
The plot concerns Jay Bulworth, a socialist senator whose popularity has declined to such a degree that he’s had to turn towards conservative policies in order to gain re-election. Due to how tired he is of all the bad things that have happened to him, he hires someone to assassinate him, making a deal with insurance company lobbyists for him to get a $10 million policy for his daughter in exchange for a favourable vote. Since he believes he is going to die, Bulworth ends all of his inhibitions, starting to speak his mind about how little the country cares about ordinary people, with his focus going onto the black population and how their views are ignored, with Bulworth fully immersing himself into black culture. This honest approach earns him a great deal of support and pushes him out of his suicidal tendencies with the big question being whether or not he can call off the assassination. One of the big things about the film is that it is incredibly preachy about the lack of care the US government has towards the non-white, lower classes but what the film preaches is correct and is still as relevant today as it was in 1998 with events like the delayed response to the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. I also really like how baffled the people around Bulworth are to what he is doing, all of it feeling really believable, along with how people who stay in office for long periods of time sometimes have to choose between their ideology and votes, with Bulworth choosing votes and the film shows how spiritually crippling this decision can be. This is all helped by how well written the script is, with it being clear that Aaron Sorkin was involved with it, although credit also has to go to Warren Beatty, Jeremy Pikser and James Tobak, with it being no surprise how left wing the film is considering the involvement of all these people.

The performances are brilliant as well. Warren Beatty is excellent as Bulworth, his despair at his situation at the start of the film feels really believable along with his subsequent adoption of black culture and his way of speaking his mind. All of the stuff Beatty says as Bulworth feels true and it’s clear that he (Beatty through Bulworth) has wanted to say all of this stuff for a long time but wasn’t able to. Granted, the scenes when he’s rapping are incredibly cringeworthy but I think they’re meant to be, it’s a clear show of someone thinking he’s a member of a community trying to adopt their lifestyle and completely failing allowing these incredibly cringeworthy scenes to work in the context of the character. Oliver Platt and Sorkin mainstay Joshua Malina are great as Bulworth’s advisers, showing their complete confusion over what Bulworth is doing and there are also good performances in underwritten roles for Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Paul Sorvino, Jack Warden, Isiah Washington and Christine Baranski.

Overall, Bulworth is a really good film. A brilliant, honest script and a top notch performance from Warren Beatty makes this film really enjoyable and prevents the preachy nature of the film overshadowing everything.

My Rating: 4/5

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