The American President (1995)


The American President is a fantastic romantic comedy, but there is also enough political intrigue there to keep people not interested in romance entertained. This is what happens when the director of When Harry Met Sally, the greatest romantic comedy ever made, (Rob Reiner) makes a film written by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network). Throw in two Oscar nominated leads (Michael Douglas and Annette Bening) and surround with some terrific character actors (Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox, Richard Dreyfuss, and David Paymer) and you get a really entertaining movie.

The plot is your standard boy meets girl fare, but what makes this different is the boy happens to be the President of the United States. Douglas is charming and charismatic as Andrew Shepherd, the president. Seeing him fumble his way around a new relationship, while still having to run a country is what makes this film entertaining. I also found it interesting that two of the issues he was confronting were global warming and gun control. This film was released in 1995, so it’s disheartening to think these are still big issues in America today. It’s almost twenty years later and not much progress has been made on either issue so far.

Annette Bening is lovely as the presidents new girlfriend, Sydney Ellen Wade. You believe these two would fall for each other as they have terrific chemistry together. The whole cast works really well together actually, especially Douglas and his VP, Martin Sheen. Their scenes together are great: one minute they can be discussing the president’s love life and the next they can be talking about attacking Libya. You believe they are trusted friends and their relationship is one of the film’s strong points.

I really liked the sets used as well. Apparently Bill Clinton let the film makers go through the White House four or five times before production began so their sets could be as authentic as possible. The only set that was imagined was a small scene in Camp David. No civilians are allowed up there so they had to use old photos from the Nixon administration to get an idea what it was like.

This film is charming and funny and puts a new original twist on your ordinary romantic comedy. It’s also really relevant because they discuss issues still effecting society today. It could’ve been any romantic comedy, but the director, strong dialogue and the terrific cast elevate this under rated romantic comedy to must see.

Rating: A-

We’ve watched five movies with the word “American” in the title, and are just now getting to something patriotic. This is also only the second movie in the group that doesn’t feature Mena Suvari, and the second starring Annette Bening. Weird.

Anyway, Michael Douglas is a widowed president who starts dating again. Could you imagine if this happened in real life? The press and the opposing political party would have a field day. That poor woman (because let’s face it, a female president could not even entertain the idea of dating; people could not handle it) would become public domain, every minute detail of her life open for scrutiny. Everything she did would be of utmost importance because whoever controls the president’s crotch also controls policy, naturally. This movie is nearly 20 years old, but it is an incredibly accurate portrayal of the current mudslinging political environment.

It’s also a tad infuriating. The two main policy issues President Shepard is submitting legislation on are environmental protection and gun control. Two issues that are unresolved today. In fact, there’s no need to remake this movie anytime in the near future because sadly, American politics don’t look likely to change anytime soon.

Other than that, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the film. Michael Douglas and Michael J. Fox deliver excellent performances, as does Richard Dryfuss as a congressman you just want to punch in the face. Bening is good, but her schoolgirl swooning over the president is a bit much at times. The plot is completely plausible, as discussed, but the monologues are a tad heavy handed (and this is coming from someone who agrees with what’s being said. Now that I realize this was an Aaron Sorkin script it makes perfect sense why I feel this way).

A great twist on the typical romantic comedy for sure, but not something I really loved.

Rating: B+

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