Humor for ‘unpresidented’ times: Political comedy “Dick”

Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dan Hedaya (Photo by Phoenix Pictures/Getty Images)
Giddy teens Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams, with Dan Hedaya as Richard Nixon (Photo by Phoenix Pictures/Getty Images).

While it may be difficult to find humor in these “unpresidented” times, the last thing you may be in the mood for is a “political” film recommendation, but “Dick” is no ordinary political film.

So groovy to see Ryan Reynolds and Kirsten Dunst early in their careers.
So groovy to see Ryan Reynolds and Kirsten Dunst early in their careers.

Released in 1999, you get to see three of today’s biggest stars in roles very early in their careers: Michelle Williams, Kirsten Dunst, and Ryan Reynolds. And, as you might expect, they all nail it.

Will Ferrell as the ever-suspicious Bob Woodward.
Will Ferrell as the ever-suspicious Bob Woodward.

Dunst and Williams are brilliantly giddy patriotic teens who befriend President Nixon, stumble upon the Watergate burglars, give Nixon reason to erase those controversial 18 minutes of tape, and even have some advice for intrepid reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein amidst their Watergate investigation.

Also, the 1970s-inspired soundtrack and use of music throughout is a textbook example of how to use relevant music in a film in a relevant way. Of course there are many reasons certain songs appear in certain films, but often times the music seems inappropriate or otherwise out of place. Not so in “Dick;” the use of music rocks.

Patriotic teens Williams and Dunst (Columbia Pictures/Phoenix Pictures)
Patriotic teens Williams and Dunst (Columbia Pictures/Phoenix Pictures)

I once had a political comedy I was pitching to producers. My story was more romance and comedy than politics, yet politics was integral to the characters and plot, in that it was the framework that united the characters, much in the way World War II was the framework that united characters in “Casablanca,” which was more romance than war film, more personal isolation than political isolation.

Anyway, in one pitch a producer interrupted me, threw up his hands and declared, “Not interested in anything political!” To which I replied, “It’s not political, it’s about–,” to no avail. And to another producer I had to explain how the electoral college worked — again, just to provide context for my non-political “political” romantic comedy. The script never sold.

Regardless, getting back to the contextually political comedy “Dick,” the film would not be the comedic tour de force it is without the performances by Dunst and Williams, as well as the ever-critically important supporting roles: Reynolds, Terri Garr, Harry Shearer as G. Gordon Liddy, Golden Globe nominee Dan Hedaya as Nixon, and, of The Kids in the Hall fame, Dave Foley as Bob Haldeman.

“Dick,” written by Andrew Fleming and Sheryl Longin, and directed by Fleming, is 94 minutes of joy and humor driven by great screenwriting and precision comic acting and directing.

And, now more than ever, joy and humor is badly needed in such “unpresidented” times.

See also: 9 Things You Really Never Knew About ‘Dick’

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