Primary Colors

Although many may not believe that a sexual scandal could ever possibly take place at the White House, this film makes it almost seem conceivable. And so very American. Yes, that wonderful team of Nichols and May are at it once again, except that instead of treading the boards as once they did in the past, they're sharing the screen; he's directing and she's writing. They'll still keep your sides splitting (in the most thought provoking way) with this delightful and sinister portrayal of life among the high and mighty in the Washington scene. Every film that bears the name of Nichols as director bears seeing more than once and every word out of super- perfectionist May's mouth or pen is worth listening to. They are the basic hues behind Primary Colors.

The story is exciting and fascinating and human and ultimately about the deterioration of the American dream and the illusion of the American ideal. We travel the route with novitiate Henry Burton to discover some sobering, if not downright disheartening, facts of life. Some might call it growing up; others might refer to it as manipulation of the world through hypocrisy, lies, betrayal, and whatever else it costs. Everybody seems to want to have a "WIN" button pinned to their chest. The stakes are high and there's not much room for ethics.

A flawless and captivating movie, star-studded with an impeccable cast, takes us along down the trail with Henry Burton (Adrian Lester), the young black idealist and grandson of a renowned Civil Rights leader, who is drawn to join the ranks (pulled gently) of governor and presidential candidate Jack Stanton (John Travolta). The central core contains such colorful, sharp, intelligent, and cunning figures as political strategist Richard "Redneck" Jemmons (Billy Bob Thornton), campaign trouble-shooter and confidante Libby Holden (Kathy Bates), campaign media advisor Daisy (Maura Tierney), and first lady Susan Stanton (Emma Thompson). Music a la Americana makes the soundtrack have a special touch from the unbeatable Ry Cooder.

Although each and every performance deserves suitable praise, I must issue a special presidential citation for those of both Emma Thompson (the sound of whose American lingo has improved admirably) and Kathy Bates as being absolutely astonishing. A difficult vote.


Understripe these stars!

It's all so amazingly real. The characters are all recognizable. Like Larry King, Geraldo Rivera, and Charlie Rose. Even Larry Hagman as Governor Fred Picker rings bells and manages to win our hearts. Couldn't help thinking that both the top man and the first lady reminded me of someone too. Chillingly on the dime.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett