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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The American President (1995)

The American President is a sweet romance story set in the midst of the American Presidency and an impending election. The movie was directed by Rob Reiner and written by Aaron Sorkin. The American President (Michael Douglas) has just had some high poll ratings and this gives his team some confidence that they are in a good spot to win re-election. His principal advisor and Chief of Staff (Martin Sheen) and he go back a long way and have an easy comfort. He also does not seem to have any character blemish, being a widower with a young daughter, and no female companions to worry about. The only issue is the contender from the rival party, but they are not really worrying about this.
Things start to change when a new lady Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening) comes into town, as one of the main lobbyists for a Green coalition. Her aim is to get a law passed that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions (a target for most environmentalists since that leads to a reduction in fossil fuel consumption and an overall reduction of oil used). She has a pretty good reputation as a lobbyist, being able to get members of Congress to her position. The President also has an objective, to get gun laws modified by a small extent, so that he can claim overall credit for reducing guns in general hands and maybe cause a reduction in violence levels (one of his advisors Michael J Fox wants him to try and do something like that, but the President is unwilling to go beyond a certain point). However, he is not willing to try and stake a lot of political capital in trying to get a comprehensive arms control bill passed.

The American President

And then the President meets her in a accidental meeting at the White House, where she is criticizing the President for his administration's policies in the environmental sphere, not knowing that the President has just walked in. When she finds out, there is a sense of embarrassment, but it passes and he makes a deal with her that if she can get a majority in Congress, the environmental bill will get the support of the administration. The President is taken with her, and invites her to be his date for an official function since he needs a companion; she is a bit taken back, but accepts. The date passes by fine, and she gets closer to the President, but a bit apprehensive since she is after all a political lobbyist and he is the President, imagine the complications. Soon, however, things start to heat up when she spends a night at the White House with the President, and the press corps is outside in the morning to greet her :-). She is the talk of the night shows and the President is slowly becoming the target of the moral groups, and as well the target for his election contender. This heightens when it is discovered that Benning had once taken part in a demonstration in which the American Flag is burnt, and this calls into question the patriotism of the President, and he is severely attacked by his opponent Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfuss).
Against the advice of his advisors, the President refuses to reply to these attacks, assuming that this will demean his office if he has to respond to such attacks. However, in the end, the President betrays her by trading the votes of some die-hard anti-environmental bill politicians (from Michigan, where Detroit is the center of the car manufacturing corporations and die-hard opponents of the bill). When this happens, and Benning finds out, she is fired from her job since the bill is now dead, and she gives a piece of her mind to the President and walks out. After some introspection, the President finally decides to respond to all the attacks, and gives a rousing press speech where he defends her right as a free American to burn the flag in a demonstration (a freedom enshrined in the bill of rights), commits his administration to fight for the environment and withdraw his arms control bill and float a new one that will actually do something to control arms. This is a rousing speech that convinces her that this is a new President, as well as promise a rousing fight from his side in the election campaign that will take the fight to his opponent.
This is a very liberal movie from a very liberal movie maker, and is worthy of a watch.

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