"The American President" Throwback Review
A crowd-pleaser that surely pleased me, Rob Reiner's The American President is a movie that lives on fantasy island. It's simple politics and specific plot points are a bit of a stretch by contemporary standards, and downright preposterous by present ones.
This president, named Andrew Shepherd and played wonderfully by Michael Douglas, is the kind of president that we can only dream of having in the Oval Office. He decisively creates and passes legislation, carefully considers executive actions, and cares for his half-orphaned daughter. And he does all this with a smile while cracking witty remarks that could only be penned by Aaron Sorkin.
Sorkin's script is exactly what you would expect from him as it lays several of the building layers that would become fully formed in his series The West Wing. With a supporting cast of Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox, David Paymer, and Anna Deavere Smith, Sorkin and Reiner have assembled a dream team of presidential aides. These characters are the smartest in the room at all times, matching wits with comedic banter and insightful remarks.
But its not always roses and lilies within this version of 1600 Penn as Sorkin and Reiner provide commentary on the weight that the title of "President of the United States" carries, a persona that can never be shaken off no matter how much you try.
A romantic-comedy so steeped in 90s optimism, The American President makes you feel good to be an American, which is a feeling many of us haven't felt in a long time and may never feel again. Marc Shaiman's score makes you want to stand up and salute, and Douglas' and Bening's performances make you wish they came together to run for office.
I'm a sucker for anything historical or presidential in movies, but liking this movie did not stem from guilty pleasure. It came from appreciating the talent involved at every level, and the effect it has as both a piece of entertainment and political commentary.