Primary Colors is a political satire following a southern governor who bears a striking resemblance to Bill Clinton on his presidential campaign trail.
This film was obviously aimed far more at mainstream audiences than I was hoping for and so seems very tame to anyone used to the likes of The Thick Of It or even 1970’s sitcom Yes Minister. The story is shown through the eyes of the idealistic grandson of a civil rights activist played by Adrian Lester, but as we don’t get to learn much about him there is little in the way of emotional involvement; in fact the whole “human drama” aspect of it felt very forced. Travolta’s drawling womaniser is shown to be basically an honest and straight-talking man with one flaw and this lack of satirical bite also compromises his character. What does make this film however are the supporting characters; partly Billy Bob Thornton’s red neck adviser but mainly Kathy Bates who tears through the film like a large lesbian version of hurricane Katrina. She has the best character and most of the best lines as a disillusioned ex-activist but once again the outcome of her part in the story felt a bit contrived and hollow. It does have wit, intelligence and a message, namely that this era of spin is a Frankenstein’s monster that the complicity of a gossip-hungry public and sensationalist media have helped create, and it is always engaging.
I just wished it had the cynical, satirical teeth to go in for the kill.