Grassroots, BFI London Film Festival
Friday 19 October 2012
With the US election coming up, it's no surprise that there are a few films focused on the ballot box about at the moment. Seal Team Six: the Raid on Osama Bin Laden will be distributed by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein two days before the presidential election; meanwhile the Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis spoof The Campaign is out now, lampooning the race to office as a dirty farce.
Grassroots is not nearly so self-important nor so farcical. In fact, the new Jason Biggs film takes its title so seriously that director Stephen Gyllenhaal (father of Jake and Maggie) has taken to screening it at campaign events for "grassroots" candidates around the country.
Gyllenhaal's script is based on the memoirs of a real life affair in Seattle in 2001, when a freelance music journalist stood for local office against a longtime incumbent, his sole policy being the extension of the city's monorail. Despite no political experience, something in his impassioned speeches caught the imagination of students and other locals.
Played here by Joel David Moore, Grant Cogswell is, unfortunately, a whiny social outcast whose accidental leadership is difficult to believe in. There is more solid characterisation in Biggs as Phil Campbell, his ex-journalist friend turned campaign manager, although just how much managing he actually does is questionable.
Biggs' American Pie routine - geeky nice guy stepping out of his comfort zone - has stuck with him for a reason. He is great here as the reluctant idealist torn between sense and optimism, even when his well-meaning girlfriend tires of the campaign banners and thoughtless students that now litter their flat.
Cedric the Entertainer as the incumbent whose seat Cogswell covets, treads a nice line too between complacent and concerned. Is he really the corrupt grandstander Cogswell makes him out to be? Or just a politico in need of a wake-up call?
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
Pottermore: JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story featuring 'greying' 33-year-old wizard
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt stars in visceral and brutally ugly drama that reminds us war is hell
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts