SWING VOTE directed by Joshua Michael Stern, written by Jason Richman and Stern, with Kevin Costner, Paula Patton, Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane and Stanley Tucci. 120 minutes. A Disney release. Opens August 1. Rating: NNNNN
Likeable star fields dreams in Swing Vote
Swing Vote directed by Joshua Michael Stern, written by Jason Richman and Stern, with Kevin Costner, Paula Patton, Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane and Stanley Tucci. 120 minutes. A Disney release. Opens August 1.
After saving the human race in Waterworld and restoring America’s sense of hope in The Postman, Kevin Costner is once again the most important man in the free world.
Swing Vote, which opens August 1, casts Costner as a working-?class New Mexico dad who ends up holding the fate of the presidential election in his hands, and finds himself courted by the Republican incumbent (Kelsey Grammer) and his Democratic challenger (Dennis Hopper) as the country awaits his decision – to the disgust of his politically aware daughter (Madeline Carroll).
Also, he gets to sing on screen for the first time, accompanied by his band, Modern West.
“The director is the one who actually wanted a song to be played,” Costner said during a Toronto interview-?stop-?slash-?concert-?tour last month that found him promoting the movie at the Four Seasons in the morning and taking the stage with his band at the Phoenix in the evening.
“I was kind of unsure about it. I just like the expansion as a performer, to be able to sing.”
In person, Costner exudes an amiable, earnest vibe; he’s a man who’s deeply comfortable with his station in life. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his current station is that of an Oscar-?winning filmmaker, A-?list actor and all-?around happy guy.
After the misadventure of the serial killer thriller Mr. Brooks, Swing Vote lets Costner return to his reliable, regular-?guy persona. He makes gee-?whiz faces while Grammer and Hopper compete to turn him into their personal focus group, flip-?flopping on key party positions at Costner’s every utterance.
“We were exploring the humanity of two guys vying for the biggest job on the planet,” says Costner, who also produced the film.
“Who would doubt that they might be willing to switch their positions? It does seem like an awful job, because even when you do the most humble thing, somebody’s going to say you did it for political reasons. Everybody’s going to second-?guess the simplest gesture you make.”
Not that Swing Vote is an overtly political picture. Costner sees it as a comedy first and a character study second.
“Bud Johnson is a person who hasn’t achieved a lot, and after he gets over the initial burst of fame, he’s embarrassed. In the end, you can see that he digs as deep as he can so an average person can choose between two exceptional people.“You know, I never thought Bull Durham was about baseball; I thought it was about me and [Susan] Sarandon. Swing Vote has this tapestry of the election, but it’s a backdrop against which I figure out how to be a father to my fifth-?grader.”
But nudge the actor-?producer just a little and he does admit to a somewhat idealistic vision of a better, richer America consistent with the hopeful underpinnings of Field Of Dreams and The Postman.
“I’ve never actually come out in public and supported any candidate,” he says. “There’s no way I could align myself with a party. I’m a hunter and a fisherman, but I believe there should be gun laws. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, so how does that make me a conservative? Where is my place out there? I feel we’re all a little broader than they’d like us to be, and we don’t have a party that represents that.”
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