Running Mates (1992) / Comedy-Romance
aka Dirty Tricks
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for a scene of sex and mild language
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Diane Keaton, Ed Harris, Ed Begley Jr., Ben Masters, Robert Harper, Brandon Maggart, Russ Tamblyn
Director: Michael Lindsay-Hogg
Screenplay: Carole Eastman
Review published February 21, 2004
An HBO original movie, but featuring A-list stars, Running Mates is an amiable romantic comedy that is carried by the personalities and acting ability of the two appealing stars. Released during just before the Clintons took the White House, Carole Eastman's script (using the pseudonym of A.L. Appling) feels very familiar to anyone who knows the feeding frenzy the media had with the past lives of the candidates, who have to account for every indiscretion and poor choice they may have made up to 20 or 30 years ago.
The first half of the film is a formula "battle of the sexes" comedy, where Ed Harris (The Hours, Glengarry Glen Ross), playing the Democratic senator with presidential aspirations, pursues an old high school classmate he has just run into, played by Diane Keaton (Something's Gotta Give, Manhattan Murder Mystery). He wants her, but she's not so sure she wants him, as she doesn't want to be had on the cheap, and once she does give in, she doesn't want to give up her independent ways of thinking. Harris complies, telling her she is free to speak her mind, and things proceed splendidly until he's actually on the campaign trail, and the uncouth antics of his would-be first lady keeps overshadowing his message in the media.
Possibly the biggest downside to this mostly enjoyable comedy is that the budget isn't large enough to support a realistic depiction of a bid for the White House. In almost every aspect, it feels very much like a made for television production, and what could have had some resonance just doesn't quite feel real enough to be an authentic commentary on the media and politics. It's a bit of a shame, as the screenplay does offer enough interesting elements to entertain and provoke thought, but a grand scale movie just can't be made with such modest means.
All in all, Running Mates does deliver well for people looking for a light romantic comedy, and fans of the two leads shouldn't be let down by their fine performances. Those looking for a smart political satire will have to keep expectations low, as this film is primarily concerned with the romance aspects, not really hitting anything serious until Harris' well-delivered final speech.
©2004 Vince Leo