Rob Reiner seems to have found his calling. This time out, Rob has directed The American President, a warm comedy about the difficulties of romance in today's complex society, something of a When Harry Met Sally..., a warm comedy about the difficulties of romance in today's complex society.
While it ultimately packs nowhere near the punch that When Harry Met Sally... did, The American President puts a nice spin on the romantic fable and is a pleasant moviegoing experience. Michael Douglas plays President Andrew Shepherd, a widower and single father who finds himself caught up in a dalliance with environmental lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening). What we get to see is a rare treat: watching "the most powerful man in the world" act totally awkward in his pursual of Sydney, and seeing ultra-classy Bening become flustered at the President's advances. Proving himself just an average guy, Andrew flubs his lines on the phone as if he was asking a girl to Homecoming.
The result is an excruciatingly realistic romance, but set in the most absurd of plotlines. You see, Sydney is lobbying for a bill to go to the House, and the President has made a deal with her: if she can get 24 votes he'll send it to the floor. Unfortunately, it soon becomes clear that those votes will come at the expense of votes for the President's golden child, a wishy-washy crime bill. So Andrew has to choose what's more important: the country, or Sydney. Hell, I'd choose Sydney, too.
Okay, it isn't that simple, but it might as well have been. The political drama here is totally corny and makes no statement about anything (except crime is bad and the environment is good), but the sweetness of the love affair ultimately outweighs the plot's defects. We're also given a sober wake-up call about how a gossip-hungry America looks at the personal lives of its leaders.
The supporting cast of Michael J. Fox, Martin Sheen, and Samantha Mathis as the President's advisors are all dead-on. Gorgeous sets (with the notable exception of a Camp David that looks straight out of a sitcom) make us feel like we're in the action. All-in-all, a nice date movie, perfect for the holidays.