There’s something fresh about the blandness of politics, something genuine about the genuine idiot that is Kevin Costner, and something patriotic about the corruption of our government. Swing Vote well-manages satire, drama, and its characters without getting up its own ass in political messages.
Bud Johnson (Costner) is a loser from New Mexico whose only possessions include a fishing rod, a case of beer, and his political-minded daughter, Molly (Madeline Carroll). All Molly wants from her father is to take responsibility, and when he gets drunk instead of casting his presidential vote, Molly chooses a delegate for him. But the vote isn’t properly cast, and coincidentally, the presidential election is a virtual tie. While the presidential nominees (Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper) kiss Bud’s butt, he gets lost in the politics of selfishness, and loses focus on what’s important – his daughter, and ultimately his deciding vote.
Bud’s character is overdone, but whether we accept it or not, he represents America. Like Bud, we are focused on achieving 15-minute status as opposed to attending to what keeps us grounded. The political nominees in the film keep changing their policies to appease one man. But that one man is nothing more than the face of embarrassment. Writer/director Joshua Michael Stern thus isn’t afraid to confront this issue of national stereotypes and the power of individual representation, keeping focus on Bud and his adorable daughter instead of on the presidential nominees, which may or may not resemble their real-life counterparts.
Despite its flaws, Swing Vote is very well executed, and because it refrains from getting preachy and overly political, apple pie this election year will just taste that much sweeter.