’90s film reflects on the

Chris Kallio

It is the 21st month of the presidential campaign. Paris Hilton and Britney Spears have entered (against their wills) this race for the White House; the silly season began a long time ago and will climax in November with a finale like we have never seen before. That’s still more than a month away.

Perhaps something that can alleviate this extensive process is films. One such film is “Primary Colors,” based on the novel by Joe Klein. The film is a political comedy, or a farce if not for recognition of the film’s main protagonist, Jack Stanton, played by John Travolta.

Stanton is a little-known governor from a small southern state with silver hair, charismatic attitude, raspy voice, love of food and tendency to be unfaithful. It should sound familiar. Undoubtedly, Stanton is Bill Clinton. This film was released in 1998 during what had to have been the worst year in Clinton’s life: The year of the infamous “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” Then (on his birthday) admitting he was, in fact, lying, and concluding the year with his impeachment trial. Not a good year, indeed. In the film, Stanton is almost identical to Clinton, dodging the media and his staff about his infidelity and raising questions about his aspirations.

Like the portrait of Gov. Stanton, Mrs. Stanton (Emma Thompson) is accepted by the audience member based on his or her perception of Hillary Clinton. She is either a caring wife whose faith helps her to forgive, or she is one of Shakespeare’s most ruthless female villains, hauntingly ambitious to the point where winning campaigns take precedent over personal matters.

Director Mike Nichols added another brilliant film to his awesome line of work, while simultaneously getting the best performances from his performers. Travolta and Thompson are terrific, as are the other cast members, among them Adrian Lester (as a George Stephanopoulos caricature), Billy Bob Thornton (as a James Carville caricature) and Kathy Bates (as a combination of Betsy Wright and Vince Foster). Nichols’ film takes a profound look at our principles and the often declining confidence in our electoral system.

“Primary Colors” seems to be a final plea for Americans to reject the conventional ways of running elections. It is the perfect film to watch during this current season.

But the question is raised if we are supposed to be disillusioned by Stanton. Clinton left office with the highest approval rating since Eisenhower, higher than Reagan, and more than twice the poll ratings of the current president. He is noted for his charm, his empathy, his successful reign of peace and economic prosperity, oratory skills and for his rockstar personality; even his loudest critics are calming down while his admirers long for their nostalgic 1990s. But he was quite ambitious.

Apparently, Clinton did see “Primary Colors” and loved it so much that he invited John Travolta to the White House. But only on the condition that Travolta attend as Governor Stanton. Travolta declined.

Contact all reporter Chris Kallio at [email protected].