The Candidate is a 1972 American satirical comedy-drama film starring Robert Redford and Peter Boyle, and directed by Michael Ritchie. The Academy Award-winning screenplay, which examines the various facets and machinations involved in political campaigns, was written by Jeremy Larner, a speechwriter for Senator Eugene J. McCarthy during McCarthy's campaign for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination.
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The Candidate (1972)
PG | 110 min | Comedy, Drama | 11 August 1972 (Ireland)
Bill McKay is a candidate for the U.S. Senate from California. He has no hope of winning, so he is willing to tweak the establishment.
Director: Michael Ritchie
Writer: Jeremy Larner
Stars: Robert Redford, Peter Boyle, Melvyn Douglas
Synopsis by Lucia Bozzola
"What do we do now?" Director Michael Ritchie and executive producer/star Robert Redford satirically explore the machinations and manipulations of media-age political campaigns in this cynical political drama. Rumpled left-wing California lawyer Bill McKay (Redford), the son of a former governor (Melvyn Douglas), is enlisted by campaign maestro Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) to challenge Republican incumbent Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter) for his Senate seat. McKay agrees, but only if he can say exactly what he thinks. That approach is all well and good when McKay does not seem to have a chance, but things change when his honesty unexpectedly captivates the electorate. As McKay inches up in the polls, Lucas and company start to do what it takes to win, leaving McKay to ponder the consequences of his political seduction. Working without studio interference from a script by Jeremy Larner, a speechwriter for 1968 Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, Ritchie enhanced the behind-the-scenes realism of Larner's insights with a realistic, cinéma vérité approach. He orchestrated a campaign parade for "candidate" Redford that drew such a considerable unstaged audience that local politicians wanted to draft Redford for a real election. Redford's resemblance to the telegenic Kennedys, and his character's resonance with the future career of California governor Jerry Brown, only emphasized how close to the bone The Candidate was (and is). Released the fateful year of Richard Nixon's reelection, the film garnered accolades, if not substantial box office; Larner won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and thanked the "politicians of our time" for inspiration. Creating a documentary fiction about the semi-truths manufactured to market a candidate, The Candidate shrewdly exposed the effects of the media on the increasingly cynical political process, posing unanswerable questions that have become all the more pressing with every soundbite-ruled election.
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