A winking eye . . .
"It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting." Tom Stoppard
Director Joshua Michael Stern is no Frank Capra, and Kevin Costner is no Gary Cooper or Jimmy Stewart, so the attempt to comment culturally on our voting is never quite successful in Swing Vote. Yet I am moved by that attempt, a poor reason for a critic to make any evaluation, but a valid one on human terms.
Thus, for common man Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner), whose vote will determine the election of a president, the film is not a satire but a sober look at a system that fosters flip-flops and deceit, anything to win an election. Granted Bud is sipping Buds throughout, and barely knows it's an election much less any of the issues, but the Capraesque idea that each vote counts does register with a bit of humor and a winking eye at our campaign excesses.
The president (Kelsey Grammer) and his opponent (Dennis Hopper) both court Bud's vote while Bud courts the favor of his daughter, Molly (Madeline Carroll), who rouses him up for work each day (repetitious and annoying after a while), and witnesses his drunken neglect of responsibility. She's about ten years old of thirty-year old attitude (think Abigail Breslin), and would be a highlight of any film except that she scowls at him most of this movie. Costner, on the other hand, is quite comfortable, thank you, an aging slacker ripe for redemption. His sloppy persona, so natural for the actor, makes him less adorable than a hero in a message movie should be and less persuasive as a change agent. He has little grandeur in his low life.
Voting couldn't be more topical now; Swing Vote however gives little attention to its complicated nature. Too bad?it loses my vote as a swinging satire.