Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"The Candidate" is impersonal

Cleveland Press August 3, 1972

"The Candidate', is playing at theaters here. Political drama; adults, older teens. In the cast are Robert Redford, Peter Boyle, Don Porter, Allen Garfield, Melvyn Douglas. Running time: 110 minutes.

Being a candidate mean letting up extra early on election day. That's so you can get to the polls and vote when they open, this being very important because this allows for the afternoon papers to get your picture in all editions.

"The Candidate" is a movie about politics. It abandons the smoke filled room machine machinations plot.

It focuses on the politician of today a time of instant communications, advertising agency techniques and image building. It looks at the men behind the scenes, the professional campaigners who abandon the losers to find a possible winner, any winner.

It has a documentary feel and flavor. It tells its story, in trenchant one-liners, in revealing brief images. What it lacks is a human drama, some kind of notion of what the man who is the candidate is really like.

It examines the deals but seldom gets under the skin of the dealers.

ROBERT REDFORD plays the title role. He is McKay a young lawyer dedicated to helping poor clients and fighting the ecology battle.

He is approached by Lucas (Peter Boyle), a professional king-maker in the Democratic party. Lucas wants him to run in the senate primary. McKay is reluctant, has little use for politics, finally agrees to run when Lucas assures him he doesn t stand a chance of winning so therefore he may say what he pleases.

But McKay wins the nomination and quickly learns that in politics you don't say what you want to say. A refreshing "I don't know" when reporters asked questions about certain issues changes to references to position papers his staff has prepared.

The more successful the campaign, the less he is his own man. Once an arch liberal opposing an arch conservative (Don Porter), his views tend to get closer and closer to the middle of the road.

THE PICTURE succeeds in capturing the little things in the daily grind of campaigning-greeting factory workers and getting the cold shoulder, speaking wherever people can be gathered; preparation for TV (Don't look up; your eyes look glazed and you look like a moron").

It isn't long before he loses touch, before there is a wall of workers between him and the public, before his speeches have as many cliches as any other candidates.

The script was written by Jeremy Lamer, onetime speech writer for Eugene McCarthy. It is full of political insights, of ironic humor. It shows an understanding of words that mean nothing.

What the script lacks is definition of people as people. It stacks its deck. McKay is too charming, too nice, his rival too much a villain. The supporters of one are attractive, supporters of the other not attractive.

IT IS a paradox that a screenplay that recognizes there is little difference between politicians should equip its heroes and villains with white hats and black hats.

Redford is excellent, giving one of his better performances. The rest of the cast is uniformly good.