Despite all these pressing real-world crises, the town council is debating an ordinance that will require immigrants to present a picture ID whenever they’re doing anything remotely official. Jack ambles in, summons the spirit of another famous movie Cooper, Gary, and makes a heartfelt speech opposing the measure. Someone in the audience captures the moment it on video and uploads it, our hero sees it, and wham: he decides that this extraordinary ordinary man is the key to gradually flipping the rural part of the state from Republican to Democrat. All Gary Zimmer has to do is convince Jack to run against incumbent mayor Braun (Brent Sexton), an entrenched Republican. It’s an uphill fight. But Gary believes that between his political savvy, piles of money, Democratic campaign operatives, and Jack’s angry tortoise energy, they can pull off a miracle.
What ensues is sock puppet theater. Gary and his colleagues speak through Jack, a grumpy widower who lives alone on a farm with his daughter Diana (Mackenzie Davis), and is pretty good about taking direction despite seeing through the city slickers’ phoniness. Faith, who flies into town to thwart Gary, is determined to beef up Braun’s image and crush Jack beneath piles of Republican cash.
Stewart is sharpest when highlighting the absurdity of all these D.C. manipulators with their data and charts and apps and polls, rumbling through a burg full of laid-off, blue collar people. The pumped-up proxy battle that follows is as superficially absurd as the United Kingdom and Argentina going to war over the Falkland Islands. The handful of belly-laugh bits in the movie are in a “Daily Show” vein, like the campaign ad that shows Jack firing a heavy machine-gun into a lake, scowling into the camera, and saying, “My name is Jack Hastings, and I endorse this message.”
Along the way, there are some suitably mortifying jokes at the expense of Faith, an ice-blooded Nixonian fixer, and Gary, a foul-mouthed, condescending, pampered corporate liberal who finds rural midwestern politeness hilarious. Gary is the kind of guy who orders a “burger and a Bud” at the first pub he enters after arriving in a small town without asking what else is available (he’s a haricots verts and red wine person). Gary and his team (which includes Topher Grace as a numbers-cruncher who would marry his spreadsheets if he could, and Natasha Lyonne as a bare-knuckled, ground-level campaigner) are simultaneously contemptuous of, and intimidated by, the “red state” townies. They insult them while trying to court them, and offer “alternatives” to right wing, grievance-driven politicians that amount to defanged or deflated replicas. Like so much in “Irresistible”—including the classic country song “Rhinestone Cowboy,” which introduces Jack, a “real American” embellished with Hollywood touches by Gary—the political strategy on the ground is a metaphor for what’s been happening nationally in real life for at least three decades, with the Democratic party betting on presidential candidates that are, for the most part—with some immutable ideological exemptions, like abortion rights—essentially “nicer” Republicans.