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The Contender (2000)
WARNING - SPOILERS BELOW.
The sitting Vice President has died and it's up to President Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) to pick a successor and hope that the replacement gets through the confirmation hearings.
Everyone assumes that the Governor of Virginia, Jack Hathaway (William Petersen) is a shoo-in. He has been a great "gubnuh" and to top it off he was involved in trying to rescue a woman whose car plunges in to the lake he happens to be fishing in. The President has other plans. He feels that since he didn't save the girl, they'll have another "Chappiquidic" (Y'all figure out how to spell it) on their hands. He is also more confident in the ability of Senator Laine Hanson of Ohio. This causes a problem because Laine happens to be a woman and there are a few folks not quite ready for that. One of them being Congressman Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman).
Shelly has an axe to grind. For one, he is a good friend of Jack Hathaway's and two, although he never admits it, it's clear that he has a problem with women in positions of authority. Runyun is chairman of the committee that will be handling the confirmation. With the help of an ambitious Freshman Congressman, Reginald Webster ( Christian Slater), he sets out to destroy Laine. He digs in her past and finds out that while she was in college she participated in a - (hmmmm trying to clean this up for y'all) - she had sex with multiple male partners... at the same time.
Laine is bound and determined to meet Shelly head to head. She refuses to answer any questions about that night in her past. She will not succumb to a double standard. Even when The Chief of Staff, Kermit Newman (Sam Elliott - why'd they name his character Kermit?) begins to lose faith and encourages her to defend herself against the allegations, she remains steadfast. Her position is that her sex life past or present has nothing to do with her ability to do the job. Besides, it's none of their business and if she was a man, no one would care.
Laine must decide if she should compromise her principles in order to defend herself, or should she just tough it out.
The thought that crossed my mind while I was watching this movie was, "Hmmm this is pretty much pure fiction". Don't get me wrong, I totally understand why Laine chose not to defend herself, but I gotta tell ya. Had it been me, all of America would have seen me on C-SPAN cussing them all out and telling them to kiss my natural black as...behind. Period. Y'all don't hear me. The *entire* House of Representatives *and* congress would have been cussed out. 6-700 people told to "bite me." That simple. There is only so much a person can take. Well hell I guess she proved that she had courage under fire, but that was a bit outside of my comfort zone.
Jeff Bridges has made my "Favorite Presidents" list. He's number 4 behind Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman and Tiny Lister. He really cracked me up and he had some of the best lines in the entire movie and totally stole the show. I was very happy to see Sam Elliott in a nice juicy role for once. He really needs to work more often.
Gary Oldman is a chameleon. That man looks different every time you see him. He turns in a very good performance. Joan Allen didn't quite do it for me. I'm not sure why, but I wasn't feeling it.
I sorta felt like a contender after seeing this. One who lost the fight, but a contender nonetheless.
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