Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked (or Forgotten) Film: DAVE (1993) starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver

Dave, a film directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Gary Ross, is a lovely political fairy tale that works primarily because of Kevin Kline. He plays Dave Kovic, likable doppelganger to an unlikable President (also played by Kline). Despite a few glaring inconsistencies this is still one of my favorite political movies even if much of it is implausible.

Dave Kovic runs a temp job agency in Washington D.C. (not very well one is given to think - he gets too emotionally involved with his hard-luck clients) and on the side, play-acts the President - whom he is the spitting image of - in local commercials. His apartment in D.C. is much too nice for a guy who seems to be just getting along in life trying to make others happy, but maybe he inherited the place. You know how Hollywood is about movie apartments.

At any rate, Dave's commercial activity has come to the attention of the President's aides and one night Dave comes home from work to find two secret service men sitting in his living room - one of them a very imposing Ving Rhames.

Ving Rhames 

To Dave's surprise they want him to impersonate the Prez - just to wave at a crowd and be seen getting into a limo - while the actual Prez is off on some important government business (actually, dallying with his mistress - aka Laura Linney as Randi, a Presidential staffer).

It's all harmless and fun and something that doesn't strain Dave's ability. He is happy to help out.

But when, that same night, the Prez suffers a debilitating stroke in the arms of said mistress, his evil  Chief of Staff - a psychopath by the name of Bob Alexander (Frank Langella) and his co-hort Kevin Dunn (the very affable Alan Reed) pressure Dave into playing the President until Mitchell recovers and can resume his duties. What they don't tell Dave is that Mitchell is probably not going to recover - he is being held in medical sequestration in the upper reaches of the White House.

Frank Langella and Kevin Dunn

This part of the plan doesn't make much sense really - it all has to do with Alexander's hatred of the Vice President (Ben Kingsley) and his crazed unwillingness to hand over the reins of government. But as I mentioned in the beginning, this is really a fairy tale, so we shrug our shoulders and move on.  

When Dave rightly asks, "What about the Vice President?"

Alexander replies that "...the Vice President is mentally unbalanced."

So for the sake of the country, Dave has to step in - at least for now. It is his patriotic duty.

There follows a very funny if very unbelievable crash-course in 'how to be the President'.

It also helps matters (at least at first) that the President and First Lady Ellen Mitchell (Sigourney Weaver) rarely speak. They have totally separate quarters in the White House and in truth, Ellen hates Bill's guts - she knows him for the philanderer he is.

Everything goes along fairly well and it becomes apparent to one and all (the Washington press corps, the television pundits - all played by real-life reporters and commentators from the early 90's) that 'the President' has a new lease on life. He is not only more out-going than Bill Mitchell, but infinitely more likable.

There are some touching moments showing 'the President' winning the hearts of the people without really trying. Dave is just a naturally sweet, empathetic sort of guy - very different from the real Bill Mitchell who is not only a phony and a double-dealing jerk, but a crook as well.

Dave seems instantly smitten by the First Lady and who can blame him? It is Sigourney Weaver, after all. Ellen herself begins having second thoughts about her hubby. He seems so different. The two grow closer but not before a very funny shower scene and a couple of other awkward encounters.

What happens next I won't reveal except to say that Charles Grodin in his usual winning way steals the scenes he's in.

He plays Dave's accountant buddy Murray Blum, whom Dave calls in to help balance a tricky budget bill, much to the consternation of Bob Alexander and the President's staff. (Frank Langella is quite funny as the stiffly walking psycho with beady evil eyes and delusions of grandeur.)

As Dave begins to feel (and exert) his power, rightly realizing that he doesn't have to tow Alexander's line, he makes a powerful enemy out of the chief of staff - especially when Dave has the temerity to fire him. (A very satisfying scene.)

What happens next I won't reveal, except to say that it all works out for the best even if the actual ending makes little sense - politically speaking.

There are several things in this movie that should have worked better: Charles Grodin could have had more to do. He is SO wonderful. Ben Kingsley too just basically stands around. Ving Rhames could have handled more as well, though he has a really nice scene with Dave in an ambulance near the end.

Also, can it be true that there is a secret underground entrance to the White House? An entrance that leads to a small park - complete with bubbling fountain - across the way? If so, it's a secret no longer.

This review is my entry in Tuesday's Overlooked (or Forgotten) Films hosted by Todd Mason at his blog, Sweet Freedom Don't forget to check in and see what other films, television or audio/visual material other bloggers are talking about today.


  1. Great movie! I was a temp worker for decades and I particularly liked seeing Kline running his business. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Weaver learns who Dave really is and says she admires him for helping people find jobs. Then Dave has a great speech about how finding someone a job helps each perssn feel worthy and valuable. I worked for a woman who owned her own agency who was very much like Dave. She knew every single employee by name when they walked in the door and made an effort to tailor fit jobs to our strengths.

  2. Thanks, Todd and you're welcome. I really have been out of it lately. :)

  3. I agree with you John that work is key. It's so obvious and yet seems to elude the people in charge who - as we note - already have great jobs.

    I really expected an FDR sort of jobs bill from the Prez, but am so far disappointed that he didn't see it through.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm for Obama all the way, I just wish he weren't so careful. But with all the enemies he has, one can't really blame him I suppose.

    I never worked temp jobs. I'll bet it was an adventure. :)

  4. Saw this one when it came out and remember liking it a lot as it seemed at heart to be channeling some of the great romantic comedies of the 40s - and even manages a decent ending as I recall - thanks Yvette, great choice.

  5. Yvette, I've seen DAVE several times and just caught the last half-hour recently. It's immensely entertaining, with a terrific performance by Kevin Kline (from my alma mater Indiana University). He and Sigourney Weaver have wonderful chemistry, but it's Kevin's show. Wish Dave had been a candidate during the last election....

  6. I have seen Dave 2 times and wouldn't mind seeing it again it was fun.
    Hope the cold weather leaves us soon.

  7. I LOVE this movie, Yvette. I love Kevin Kline, and always enjoy Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley & Charles Grodin.

    I often say to my husband, "I love you t-h-i-s much", but if you haven't seen the movie, it doesn't make much sense. ;-)

  8. Yvette, somehow I never got around to seeing DAVE, but with that great cast and the movie's almost Capra-esque plot, I'll keep an eye on the TV listings! Thanks for the swell movie tip!

  9. I should resee this one. I think Kevin Kline is hilarious. He was in "In and Out." And he has been so funny in so many movies.

    I've worked temp jobs; ugh. Don't want to remember. I got saved by being hired by the New York Civil Liberties Union, a good job, great people.

    I wish that Pres. Obama would have created a Job program like the 1930s WPA but the powers that be don't want that.

    It would help so many unemployed people and would aid the economy, too, with more people spending money and also paying taxes. That would stop a lot of the layoffs and program shutdowns because there would be more funds for schools, medical care, etc.

    I see young folks around me with BAs and Masters' degrees working in restaurants and tourist attractions; they can't find jobs using their degrees. Sad.

    And so many people have lost housing and so much because they've been laid off and can't find jobs.

    I think people would have to ring the Capitol with signs for a WPA-type program, people from everywhere.

  10. Sergio, the ending doesn't work very well for me because I always think won't people notice that the local councilman wannabe President looks EXACTLY like that guy who died in office a couple of years ago???? And oh by the way, isn't he married to that guy's wife now?????

  11. Rick, wouldn't it be great if movie candidates like Dave could step into real life? I'll tell you what I think (when have I ever not?) - many candidates come into office with the highest of goals and expectations and then the reality of it all wipes away their vision. There are a lot of bad people in Washington and unfortunately many of them hold onto power with a death grip.

    I think President Obama found this out very swiftly. I also think that he's a very careful man who is well aware that he must leave some sort of legacy as the first African American president. I'm still an Obama groupy, don't get me wrong. I just wish he'd throw caution to the winds and use his popularity for something amazing.

  12. Not cold here, Yvonne. I think Spring has sprung - finally.

    Yeah, DAVE is a keeper. I should add it to my film library. I am definitely going to add my other favorite Kevin Kline film IN AND OUT. :)

  13. Debbie, my mind blanked on that line. Tell me what scene it's in and I'll go AHA! Can't help it, I have old lady memory...GAK!

  14. Oh Dorian, YOU MUST SEE THIS MOVIE. You will love it. I'm positive. :)

  15. Kathy I couldn't agree with you more. I had hoped for something like a WPA Works Program from Obama. I mean, Roosevelt pushed it through against tremendous opposition. Why couldn't Obama?

    But I guess things are different now. And the job numbers seem to be improving. But you're right, it's the good jobs that are the most elusive.

    It would be a good idea to have a huge demonstration in Washington for jobs. But I think that's not going to happen, if it hasn't happened already.

  16. During the 1930s, people were organizing all over the place -- unions, tenant groups, veterans. Unemployed councils were pushing for jobs. A lot was going on everywhere.

    FDR didn't just ride in on a white horse. He was responding to the social issues and mass pressure. (I say this as a daughter of a diehard FDR fan, my mother, and a union organizer, my father, and as the niece of an aunt who worked on Broadway for the WPA.)

    A WAP is not only needed, but these jobs could be used well -- to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure all over the country and so much more.

  17. We're in agreement, Kathy. Didn't mean to be so simplistic. I am a big FDR fan, needless to say.

    The infrastructure is just waiting for this sort of thing.


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