Grassroots Review

Grassroots hasn’t really begun yet and already it’s in trouble.

As the try hard type face flashes up unexciting comedic names like Jason Biggs and Cedric the Entertainer, which is either an ironic title or a gross failure on the part of the English language, I’m already beginning to resent that I’m here.

Sandwiched in the middle aisle of a sea of people, waves of collective groans wash over me as the film aggressively screams “Laugh with me, I’m a comedy”.

Grassroots is the true-ish story of how Phil Campbell, a writer without anyone to write for having recently been fired from Seattle’s The Stranger, and Grant Cogswell, a frenetic music blogger whose, well, unemployed, campaign to get Grant elected to Seattle’s city council.

Their entire platform centres around squashing present councillor Richard McIver’s light rail campaign in favour of extending Seattle’s Mono-rail transport system.

Exciting stuff, especially when you’re subjected to Grant’s almost unwatchable rants as to why Seattle needs a mono-rail.

And don’t worry if the tedium of his platform bored you the first time around; thanks to poor writing you’ll be able to listen to it innumerable times before the film’s out, as we’re subjected to the same rambling spiel over and over again.

Yet, for all the illogicality of Grant as a viable candidate, his speak the truth attitude becomes a lightning rod around which Seattle’s disenfranchised rally.

Soon enough, it looks like he may even be a serious contender to win the election against incumbent McIver.

A few other ‘plot points’ occur and then Grassroots ends, but the fun doesn’t stop there; during the credits there’s a little face melt gimmick that shows the actors turning into the actual people the ‘plot’ is based on, with a brief bio on what they’re up to now.

Which is totally reasonable, as I’m sure most people were as riveted as me to find out what these exciting characters have done with their lives.

My issues with Grassroots go further than its poor comic timing; an actual appreciation for comedy has been replaced with an overabundance of swear words and some half constructed jokes about sexual impotency.

Poorly structured and with no interesting directorial voice, it becomes a self-indulgent cinematic fantasy from director and writer Stephen Gyllenhaal, who appears to be searching for topicality in this tale but misses the cultural zeitgeist by a long shot.

It clearly wants to be a film about the circus of personality and performance in American politics but that message is lost in the quagmire of its delivery.

The script tries desperately hard to be funny, though only D.C. Pierson as head intern Wayne gets more than a couple and even his great timing becomes lost within this plot.

On a side note, having lived in Seattle for a while, I’d like to say a mono-rail would have been a great idea. And The Stranger, the paper Phil gets fired from, is awesome.

If you want to read an exceptional and witty publication, check it out.

If you want to see an exceptional and witty production, give Grassroots a miss.

Shelton Lindsay

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October 2012
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