When the Vice President of the United States suddenly dies, Senator Laine Hanson (Joan Allen) is chosen by the President (Jeff Bridges) to be the first woman to hold the office. The selection however meets with strong opposition from members of both parties, in particular a powerful political adversary Senator Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman) who orchestrates a dirty-tricks campaign, which dredges up the apparent sexual misgivings of her past. Her confirmation hearings set off a firestorm of controversy as shocking secrets from Hanson's past are revealed, threatening her personal life as well as her political future. Laine Hanson has what it takes to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Now she must prove she has the stomach for what it takes to get the job.
Wordy film about the politics of a foreign country
- The Contender review by RP
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You rated this film: 3
Jeff Bridges reprises his role from 'The Big Lebowski' by playing the US President in this good but ultimately disappointing film about US politics. Why do I mention 'The Big Lebowski'? Well, Jeff Bridges is so laid back as the President that no work or decision making seems to get done, he has Sam Elliot (who played the barfly narrator in 'The Big Lebowski') as his Chief Of Staff, and there's even a scene in the White House private bowling alley. But on to the actual film...
The film is about equal treatment for women. The President selects a woman candidate for Vice President. She is examined by a hostile Senate committee to assess her suitability for high office. Allegations emerge about her sexual conduct when a student, and the hostile committee chairman (superbly played by Gary Oldman) uses these and other allegations in an attempt to discredit her, allegations that would never have been made about a man.
There is a twist at the end about her rival candidate, a rousing final speech by the President, and everything ends on a high note. I enjoyed it, but while it exposed the dirty infighting of US politics the characters didn't seem real to me. The central character (the contender herself, well played by Joan Allen) is an atheist who supports abortion - the premise that she was a former Republican is ludicrous. And the 'twist' concerning the rival candidate is simply too far fetched.
That aside, there are some fine performances and if you don't mind watching a wordy film about the politics of a foreign country, you may well enjoy this. 3/5 stars – but could have been a lot better.