FILM / Mr Kline goes to Washington

WOULD YOU take a bullet for the leader of the free world? That is what Secret Service men in Hollywood movies are asking themselves right now, as the fields of the republic grow darker and the White House loses its sheen. Clint Eastwood's agent Frank Horrigan gave the positive, patriotic response in In the Line of Fire, but, then, he was a relic of the Kennedy era, with a debt to pay off for the dimming of its one brief shining moment. The agent who is asked the question in Ivan Reitman's political comedy Dave (12), a glum black officer with more than the regulation-issue wariness, has to ponder it. He is asking not what he can do for his country, but whether his country is done for.

Dave takes this apathy and indulges its fondest fantasy. What if, for once, someone decent got into office? The joke of the film is to give both dream and reality the same face - the face of Kevin Kline. Kline plays the hard, unpopular incumbent, President Bill Mitchell. He also plays Bill's look-alike, Dave Kovic, who's hired by the Secret Service to cover for the President (absent philandering) on a wave-and-smile engagement. When the President's extra-

curricular exertions result in a stroke, Dave is set up as surrogate by the puppet-master White House Chief of Staff (Frank Langella). Langella appeals to Dave's easy-going patriotism: 'The country is sick, and you're going to get it to the hospital.' Dave takes his ambulance duties more seriously than the scheming Langella bargains for.

Kline plays both roles perfectly, making you believe that he is two different men. Mitchell, with his patrician vanity, narrow gaze and jerky movements, has more than a trace of George Bush, rounding off speeches with a smirking punch of the air. Dave Kovic seems to have Mitchell's body with a looser set of limbs. We first see him cycling to his Georgetown office, where he runs an employment agency. In jacket and cords, with hair a shade longer than the presidential crimp, he has a relaxed, undergraduate air. Pressed into service, he lacks Mitchell's ramrod arrogance. He does everything, even picking up a pen, with a good-natured flourish. Deferential, almost goofy, he meets the crowd, and shouts out on a whim of joyous fellow-feeling: 'God bless you] God bless America]' It chills the Secret Service but warms our hearts.

Dave gladdens the people too, surging in popularity. The film deftly recreates the media circus - chat shows, news bulletins, discussion programmes - by using the real thing. Twenty- nine characters are credited as played by 'Himself' or 'Herself'. But whereas real people often fit like square pegs in the rounded whole of a movie world (remember Graham Hill limply congratulating James Garner in Grand Prix?), here they're witty parodies of themselves, hand- on-heart but tongue-in-cheek. Oliver Stone is seen weaving a conspiracy theory about there being a substitute President to a sceptical chat-show host.

The only other person to have doubts is the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver) who reckons this isn't the mean bastard she's slept apart from (useful for the plot) for several years, with whom she barely speaks. Weaver, as in Working Girl, makes high comedy out of haughty bitchiness, and earns a sweeter reward. Frank Langella, as the crooked Chief of Staff, is also a comic gem, a near-psychotic, deluded by his own deceit into thinking he has a right to run the country. He adds spice to a film with more smiles than guffaws.

Dave's lightness is both its appeal and limitation. Taking a familar plot - the innocent outsider thrust into power - it serves a comic souffle rather than a serious meal. Langella is a comic-book figure beside Claude Rains's bent senator in Mr Smith Goes to Washington, driven to suicide by his stricken conscience. Nor does Dave have the same insight into democracy's rot as Being There, which predicted in the lionisation of Peter Sellers' slow-witted gardener the rise of Ronald Reagan and his homilies. Dave exploits the present Zeitgeist, pandering to distrust of politicians, believing personalities are more important than policies, and not seeing that what's wrong is in the world as well as in Washington. It's opportunistic, superficial, and great fun.

Mike Leigh's new comedy, Naked (18), is at the other end of the spectrum - pitchy black, with the only light cast by the coruscating wit of its misanthrope hero, Johnny (David Thewlis). Thewlis's bulbous nose and straggly beard make him a slimline Depardieu, and he offers a Mancunian monster to match any of Gerard's Gallic brutes: a man past caring, preying on loneliness, especially women's, seducing and brutalising them. His conquests fall in the murky grey area where inchoate yearning is met by brute force, but they feel like rape: he grasps partners by the hair, thrusting their heads in time to his pumping loins. Down in London, he looks up an old girlfriend (Lesley Sharp), knocks up her flatmate (Katrin Cartlidge), and wanders the night, provoking and abusing everyone he meets.

As if one fiend weren't enough, there's another, in yuppie misogynist Jeremy (Greg Cruttwell), though he's hardly past the drawing board - a fast car, a foul mouth and not much else. What's up in Leighland? It was always bleak, but this is hell, isn't it? Well, maybe. Mike seems to have gone Manichean, believing with Johnny that 'God exists in order to be fucked up by evil'. Trailing his overcoat through the night, Johnny comes over as a prince of darkness, bowing his head on smoky wasteland, to look like Lucifer grieving for the fallen world.

His wit is diabolic, tearing entertaining strips off all-comers, notably a twitchy young Scots thug. (Scot: 'Are you taking the piss?' Johnny: 'You're fuckin' givin' it away.') The city he wanders through is soulless, and almost peopleless - we see nobody apart from the folk he bumps into. These people are as shadows next to Johnny's garish vividness. Once Johnny's babble of half-baked ideas and hand- me-down theology begins to pall, we're bogged down in the slough of despond, with only the banality of evil for company.

The last two films needn't detain us as long as they do their characters in jail. The Real McCoy (12) begins with Kim Basinger ending a six-year stretch for bank robbery. She's kept her figure, as everyone keeps telling her, but not much else: her husband has deserted and her son has been kidnapped by master criminal Terence Stamp, the cause of her incarceration. Rather than allow the boy a minute's more exposure to Stamp's phoney Southern accent and camp baddie routine, she agrees to one more heist, with love interest Val Kilmer and the rest of the gang. Will she show her true colours? It's all too mechanical for us much to care.

Daniel (Thierry Fortineau), the hero of La Fille de l'Air (15), is serving a longer term, with no prospect of release - until his wife (a slightly piano Beatrice Dalle) gains a helicopter pilot's licence, and plots to fly him out of prison. This movie, a true story, is one astonishing scene in search of a film. Everything before the escape is merely a preparation - and a curiously lacklustre one. We're not given much sense of the couple's lives before his offence, except that most of his relatives seem to be underworld figures. We feel that we're being shielded from his crime, lest our sympathies be lost. Still, the final scene, as Dalle flies low over Paris and picks up her man from the prison roof - inmates clapping, warders flapping - is worth the price of admission alone.

Cinema times: Review, page 106.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders