The Contender
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

In my effort to catch up before the Oscars next week, I rented The Contender which has two
major Oscar nominations this year for Best Actress (Joan Allen) and Best Supporting Actor (Jeff Bridges).  At the beginning of this film, the Vice President has died and the President (Bridges) must pick a replacement.  The plot is based on an obscure part of the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution, enacted in 1967.  This amendment is known for laying down the rules for declaring when the President is incapable of carrying out his duties and should be replaced by the Vice President.  Since I was woefully ignorant of the second part of this amendment, I was a bit distracted while watching The Contender because, after the President named his choice for VP (Allen), she appeared before a House committee for Advice and Consent. Everyone knows that the President's nominees appear before the Senate for Advice and Consent.  But upon reading the 25th Amendment, what do you know, both the House and the Senate vote on the President's nominee for VP!   One other thing that bugged me is that at one point the President gives an address to a Joint Session of Congress and at the end of it, he calls for a vote.  He can't do that. OK, now you are so bored that you have probably stopped reading. Where was I? Oh ya, Bridges nominates Allen for VP and she appears before a House committee chaired by your typical right-wing Republican (Gary Oldman) who tries to derail the nomination by revealing Allen's sexual exploits in college.  He would rather that the nominee be the heroic Governor of Virginia (William Peterson) who was just in the news for trying to save a drowning woman.  Well, so far so good.  At this point, I think the plot is going to deal with the interesting issue of the double standard for men and woman as regards their sexual pasts.  But the plot veers off into a discussion of privacy when Allen refuses to discuss anything about her personal life and never really gets back into the double standard.  This isn't so interesting as it has been dealt with many times before and after a good start the movie kind of gets bogged down in claims and counter claims by the two sides.  But it does pick up a bit toward the end.  The cast is very good. In addition to Bridges, Allen and Oldman, it includes Sam Elliot as the President's Chief of Staff, Christian Slater as a young Congressman, and Mariel Hemingway as the ex-wife of Allen's husband.  Jeff Bridges is amazing and shines out above everyone else, showing once again that he is one of the very best actors around.  He makes the President a very interesting character and does a very funny shtick where he's always calling up the kitchen to make exotic food orders in the hopes of finding something they don't have.  Joan Allen is OK but really all she does in this movie is frown a lot.  Apparently, this is considered good acting since she's nominated for an Oscar. I love Sam Elliot and he is his usual smooth self here but he never looks quite right when he's well dressed and clean-shaven.  Oldman is also pretty amazing. He is the classic character actor totally becoming the person he is playing.  So on the whole, The Contender is nothing special but it is saved by some nice performances particularly by Bridges and Oldman.