Title: The Mayor
Director: Chris Kelly
Summary: The mayor of a small town, troubled by his incompetence, falls for a woman he once, unsuccessfully, confronted at a strip club when he was a cop. A difficult act to follow, but he and his eccentric family build on it.
The mayor of a small town, troubled by his incompetence, falls for a woman he once, unsuccessfully, confronted at a strip club when he was a cop. A difficult act to follow, but he and his eccentric family build on it. There is no doubt that director Chris Kelly took his job seriously, as his third feature, The Mayor, has a plot that is filled with complications and underwhelming story development. It’s a heavy-handed entertainment that threatens to descend into a scandalous disaster, but avoids the most obvious disappointment. Starring Jeremy Renner and a female supporting cast, there isn’t much to commend in the film.
We follow Alden (Renner), the mayor of Kingstown, Rhode Island. His assistant, Emily (Rachel Brosnahan), takes a break from cleaning houses to help him with paperwork, and immediately realizes that he has a tendency to be argumentative. The mayor is young, dumb, and mean, but also a great PR man. He quickly regains his confidence when he realizes that the town’s residents, who he often brings in to the shop, are paying full price. Besides these quotable quips and tips, he has no other intention to organize the town into a clear division of wealth. There is talk of a bridge, a park, and a refinery, but we rarely see any of the residents collaborating.
The mayor loves his family, but his son Tom (Alex Wolff) has ruined his chances of success. His mother, Ann (Meredith Hagner), has a tendency to disappear. Another daughter, Ophelia (Tiffany Haddish), is an alcoholic who can’t let go of her past indiscretions. Then there’s Franny (Stephanie Beatriz), the mayor’s ex-wife. You will not miss a word that is said in the film, which unfortunately mimics much of the subject matter surrounding these matters in real life.
The Mayor is a loosely-knit narrative that is littered with awkward juxtapositions and failed attempts at message-delivery. Renner delivers a performance that fits the basic politics of the film, but nothing more. He delivers none of the absurdity that a comedic performance would have delivered, such as his hilarious turn in The Town that Dreaded Sundown.
This film has a chance at being great, as some of the performances by the supporting cast are rather well done. Lauren Lapkus is fantastic as the same woman in two comedies. Hugh Jackman does some excellent work as another gambler who is probably inebriated all the time. Jon Glaser is great as Alden’s (Renner) rival for Emily’s affections.
For the first hour of The Mayor, Kelly does manage to finesse the film’s objectives in his plot. The mayor begins as an incompetent goofball, who is only attempting to shut down a dangerous refinery. However, he soon realizes the true value of his power, and everything will fall into place. As a result, he is an interesting character in a small story, and something that I would have liked to watch.
Unfortunately, for the first hour, The Mayor stays in that place. All of the actions and circumstances in the film are plot points that have been done in the past. The film is smart and well-intentioned, but it jumps up to false highs and false lows. What the movie is lacking, on the whole, is verisimilitude. The cast and crew know what they are doing, but are not subtle or subtle about it. It is difficult to watch them give their all, knowing that the film is going to keep a half-beat behind everything they are saying.
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