The Candidate

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Acclaimed director Michael Ritchie (The Bad News Bears) and executive producer/star Robert Redford satirically and viciously explore the machinations and manipulations of media-age political campaigns in this cynical political drama. Rumpled left-wing California lawyer Bill McKay (Redford), the son of a former governor (Melvyn Douglas), is enlisted by campaign maestro Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) to challenge Republican incumbent Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter) for his Senate seat. McKay agrees, but only if he can say exactly what he thinks. That approach is all well and good when McKay does not seem to have a chance, but things change when his brutal honesty unexpectedly captivates the public’s imagination. As McKay inches up in the polls, Lucas and company start to do whatever it takes to win, leaving McKay to ponder the consequences of his political seduction.
Released the fateful year of Richard Nixon’s reelection, The Candidate was a hit with critics; Jeremy Larner won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and thanked the “politicians of our time” for inspiration. Creating a “documentary fiction” about the semi-truths manufactured to market a candidate, the film shrewdly exposed the effects of the media on the increasingly cynical political process, posing unanswerable questions that have become all the more pressing with every soundbite-ruled election.