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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Primary Colors (1998)



Reviews and Comments

It's unfortunate that Mike Nichols' brilliant political satire, Primary Colors, resembled the Bill Clinton scandal and was released at a time when the American public was sick of hearing about it. Primary Colors is a funny, thought-provoking, and frank exploration of the political game. It's become a dirty game in recent years, with lots of mud slinging. It's all about ratings points and PR. What goes on behind all that? What is life like for a politician -- and his campaign managers -- who must always be thinking about his public image? By the time an event occurs and news of it filters through assorted political and personal agendas to your ears, how much of the truth has been skewed? How much to politicians running for office need to concern themselves with things that wouldn't matter to anyone else, and how much can they indulge and get away with it? Is it right to use shady means to rise to the top of a shady system if what you want to do when you get there is make honorable decisions and instantiate honorable policies?

All these questions and more ran through my head while viewing Mike Nichols' tightly-woven fabric of a film. Beyond the questions, I was inspired by its perspective, one to which I had not been treated in the past. And I empathized with each of the characters, understanding their own perspectives and caring for their own drives. Just as in real life politics, in which so much can distract us from that single most important issue of character, so also is it easy for the characters in such an ambitious film of exploring ideas to be forgotten. But Nichols is too experienced at making these sorts of thoughtful dramatic comedies to let this happen here.

I am not a fan of the political game; it's just not a particular interest of mine. And yet Primary Colors caught me up in its tapestry of characters, ideas, perception, and humor. I recommend it highly.