Reel Matt

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Swing Vote

Film #319


In a remarkable turn-of-events, the result of the presidential election comes down to one man’s vote.

Year 1, Day 324

BEFORE: Back again with more double-feature goodness in store for today. Still with the comedy theme, Swing Vote starring Kevin Costner (last seen in Dances with Wolves) starts things off. I remember wanting to see this after watching the trailer years ago. The story didn’t look all that great but it has some very big names attached to it and I’m interested in seeing how they fare with what is likely an impossible occurrence in reality.

AFTER: Well my initial impression about the story didn’t change - it still seems impossible and not just improbable - but I was quite surprised by how much I still enjoyed the film. Swing Vote was quite deep and examined that “true American” person with some great performances to back that up.

Let me start with the positives. What I enjoyed the most was indeed Kevin Costner’s portrayal of Bud Johnson, the titular swing vote, but more impressive was Madeline Carroll’s performance as his daughter Molly. It was her amazing acting that really kept me interested from the beginning and helped me get over the believability aspect, at least enough to watch the film. While her character also doesn’t quite seem completely plausible, I was much more willing to forgive problems. A twelve-year old might indeed care enough about the country and the importance of voting to take it upon herself, with no encouragement whatsoever from her father, but whether or not it’s believable doesn’t matter. You like this girl so much because she is trying to do the right thing and feels so strongly that she should help others to do the same, especially her father. Even in the worst of times, she powers through and continues on her mission to make sure the right candidate is elected. Costner also does a great job and is worthy of note, but his shining moments are almost exclusively at the end, after he himself makes some realizations. Early on he plays the lazy, incompetent, uncaring man who constantly drinks and neglects his responsibilities. Costner nails this aspect of Bud, so job well done there, but that really isn’t the best part of his character. That comes much later on when he takes that deeper look at things and becomes more conscious of his actions.

But as great as these characters are and their ability to make the story entertaining, nothing can get past this believability issue. They make an attempt early on to try and explain how this situation could indeed be possible. And the film actually did a better job at convincing me than I thought it could. The reason the whole election comes down to one vote is because there was an error when Bud “voted” and since it was the state of New Mexico’s fault (and not Bud’s error), their state constitution requires him to recast his ballot. Okay, but I have a few problems with this: (1) I understand this reasoing, but if the U.S. is a closed-ballot country - meaning no one knows who you vote for - doesn’t this wide news coverage all but eliminate that for Bud’s case even though technically it is still closed ballot; (2) it was actually his daughter Molly who tried to vote for Bud - which as stated is voter fraud and a felony - and with everything coming down to this, wouldn’t there be a closer investigation further than, “Oh, he has the ballot stub, story checks out”; and (3) slightly unrelated to the voting, but would the Secret Service really just let some random citizen - Bud - onto Air Force One and hang out with the President without any searches and minimal security (this also applies to the many other encounters with not only President Boone (Kelsey Grammer) but Democratic candidate Don Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper) as well)? These were some of my concerns going into the film, and despite a valiant effort to counteract this, Swing Vote leaves these very big questions of plausibility up in the air.

Swing Vote was a moderately enticing film. Looking past it’s issues, it provides a lot of fun and an interesting “what-if” scenario. It’s a great filler film if you’re looking for something just to past the time, but it really isn’t more than that.

RATING: 3 out of 5