My Favorite Movies #23 – The American President

American President - PosterThe American President


Directed by Rob Reiner

Quick synopsis… Widowed U.S. president Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas), one of the world’s most powerful men, can have anything he wants — and what he covets most is Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening), a Washington lobbyist. But Shepherd’s attempts at courting her spark wild rumors and decimate his approval ratings in this romantic comedy. Rob Reiner directs, and Michael J. Fox and Martin Sheen co-star. The film was nominated for a Best Score Oscar.

  • One of the big draws with this one for me is that it was written by Aaron Sorkin.
  • If you’ve seen The West Wing or The Social Network or The Newsroom (to name a few) then you’re probably aware of how amazing Sorkin is at writing dialogue.
  • Having seen this movie and also watched the first couple seasons of The West Wing (I know, I need to watch the rest…), The American President feels like a template for the series that would air a few years later.
  • Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) is coming up on his fourth year in the Oval Office, facing re-election in a good place.
  • His administration has just received a 63% approval rating, meaning he’s likely to win the next election without question.
  • He and his staff are seeking support in congress for what they’re carefully calling a crime control bill.
  • Neither political party is too keen on the bill, with Shepherd’s own party calling it too weak while the Republicans reject it outright.
  • At the same time, the GDC, an environmentalist lobbying firm, is pushing for a bill in congress that would see a drastic decrease in carbon emissions as a means to combat the effects of climate change.
  • The GDC hires professional lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening) who meets with White House Chief of Staff, A.J. MacInerney (Martin Sheen).
  • The president interrupts this meeting and is somewhat taken with Ms. Wade.
  • And since Andrew Shepherd is a widower whose cousin had to unexpectedly drop out of joining him for a state dinner honoring France’s new president, he decides to ask Sydney on a date.
  • They both have a swell time at the state dinner, but political rival, Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfuss), smells blood in the water.
  • As the strongest Republican candidate to mount a campaign against Shepherd in the coming election year, he begins attacking Sydney in his campaign speeches.
  • Four years prior, the Republican candidate couldn’t engage Shepherd in a character debate, deciding that the American people would disapprove after he had so recently lost his wife to cancer.
  • Now, dating a lobbyist while in office has left him open to character attacks.
  • The American President follows your typical rom-com formula…
  • Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, things go well for a while, then things don’t, then they kiss and make up in the end.
  • But the political backdrop against which this movie takes place makes the formula much more interesting.
  • It almost makes me want to show more interest in real world politics.
  • But let’s not go there…
  • I will say this, Andrew Shepherd’s improvised speech at the end of the movie rivals that of President Whitmore’s Independence Day speech.
  • If you haven’t seen this one, take the time to watch it whenever you get the chance.
  • It’s good stuff.
  • EDIT: I can’t believe I left out Michael J. Fox’s role in this movie.
  • He is incredible as a member of Shepherd’s inner circle and the scene where he confronts the president with some serious truth bombs is incredible.
  • Give that kid an Oscar.

Next week’s movie on the countdown is a Star Trek movie. There have been 13 Star Trek films to date. The one I’m watching next week is, by far and without question, the best of them all. Any guesses? You have a 1 in 13 chance of getting it right. And if you’ve been sticking with my blog for as long as I’ve been doing my Top 100, you’ll know you really have a 1 in 12 chance, since Star Trek: First Contact ranked at #95 on my list.


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