Monday, October 06, 2008

Countdown to Election '08 - The Seduction of Joe Tynan

You may never have heard of this film before today. I certainly hadn't before I went seeking out films for this series. Oddly enough, just a day or two after I first read about this film and put it on the list of movies to possibly include here, Alan Alda (who wrote the screenplay and stars in it) appeared on the Today show to promote his new film (Flash of Genius) and this film came up.

The Seduction of Joe Tynan

Despite the title, this film is not as lurid as it might seem. Yes, the eponymous hero of the film engages in an extramarital affair, but his real mistress is Washington. And you can see the pull this mistress has on his life from the very first moments. Joe Tynan is a likeable, well-meaning senator who wants to do the right things. He gets a bill passed in the opening moments of the film, and later, when he's in bed with his wife (played by the incredible Barbara Harris), it's all he can talk about. Not that this is really a problem. The Tynan's have a fairly enviable, genuine relationship. They're still affectionate and sexual after nineteen years of marriage, which is more than a lot of married couples can say. They're pretty cool parents, caring and curious about their children's lives, but not interfering too much with them or the struggles between them. However, you can sense that there's a tension underneath the surface - nothing that's much of a problem, but something that could be one under the right circumstances.

Enter the right circumstances. The President is trying to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice - one that we gather is not someone Tynan would support. But one of his friends urges him not to make a big fuss or lead an opposition, because if the appointee is confirmed the friend will lose his major rival for reelection. Tynan tells his friend he won't oppose the appointment (though he probably won't vote for the appointee himself), but things soon change when a Louisiana lawyer (played by Meryl Streep) comes to him with compelling evidence that could be used against the appointee in the confirmation hearing. Tynan is reluctant to break his promise to his friend, but when he realizes that breaking it could make him a star of his party, he can't say no.

This isn't a flashy movie, but it's incredibly well-written and well-executed, and is a great example of a cautionary tale about how getting too involved in politics can suck the life and virtue out of even the best people.

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