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Primary Colors (DVD) Review
Based on the best-selling book by the same name, Primary Colors is a beyond belief film about a smooth-operating candidate who runs for President of the United States. When the book first hit shelves in 1996, Primary Colors drew immediate parallels between its chief character and the then sitting president, Bill Clinton. Written by "Anonymous" (which probably fueled the book's mass appeal and rise to the top of the best-seller lists), the book has since been attributed to journalist Joe Klein. Amazingly, Bill Clinton never denied that Primary Colors bore an astounding resemblance to his own life and campaign. Instead, he joked around with the White House Press Corps, saying "I too would like to know - who wrote this book!" ůStartling, considering that the book paints a less than flattering picture of the candidate and the manů
Primary Colors begins when campaign operative Henry Burton (Adrian Lester) is introduced to a potential candidate for the presidency. Burton notes the deft with which the man handles his craft - the way he shakes hands, maintains eye contact, and tells compelling stories to his audience. The infatuating man is Southern Governor Jack Stanton (John Travolta), and he wants Burton to join his campaign as a top aide. (Travolta does an amazing job in the performance of this role).
After much thought, Burton throws his support behind the seemingly idealistic governor, but he soon learns that Stanton is less than what he first appears to be. Stanton is an incessant womanizer, to the point that he can barely control himself. He stretches the truth, and outright lies, if it means a good sound-bite for the cameras or convincing a group of illiterate inner-city adults that he "feels their pain" and understands the obstacles they face.
Flanked by an aggressive, power-hungry wife, Governor Stanton is kept in line by Susan (Emma Thompson) who makes certain her husband maintains a tight focus on the goals ahead. Bombastic and arrogant, Primary Colors paints a picture of the woman (i.e. Hillary Clinton) that is anything but complimentary. As the campaign picks up a number of seedy characters from Stanton's past, such as Richard Jemmons (Billy Bob Thornton) and Libby Holden (Kathy Bates), Burton struggles with his own inner demons. Is it right to support a man of flawed character in order to carry out what he believes are good policy measures that will help millions of people? Do the ends justify the means?
When the campaign is forced to dig up dirt on opposition candidate Governor Fred Picker (Larry Hagman), the entire campaign including Governor Stanton must struggle with a bruised conscience obtained from wallowing in the mudů
One of the more interesting films of the decade, Primary Colors draws its appeal from a sort of gossipy voyeurism. Audiences want to see what happens "on the inside" of the president's inner circle and on a campaign trail. What they see is not pretty. If Primary Colors really does portray a semi-accurate picture of the 1992 Clinton campaign as some people portend, then it's a testament to the strength and durability of the American republic that we survived those years with relative peace and stability. Regardless of one's political affiliation, Primary Colors is a true eye-opening experience, and it's close correlation to the Clinton campaign, and the history thereof, is what makes Primary Colors a must-see film.
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