First Man is finally out in theaters just in time for Election season. The long anticipated “sort-of sequel” to the 1998 Mike Nichols feature Primary Colors stars John Travolta as Jack Stanton, a thinly disguised fictionalization of former US President Bill Clinton. Primary Colors, which was also released shortly before the midterms, told the story of how Jack Stanton became president in no small part due to the steadfast support of his ballbuster wife Susan Stanton (Emma Thompson).
First Man fast forwards twenty years later to the inauguration of Susan Stanton as the first female president of the United States. Having defeated the outlandish game show host Archie Mayweather (Jack Nicholson) in a no holds barred election for the ages, Susan has cemented her family’s political legacy but also set up her philandering husband Jack in the historic position of being the first First Man in history.
Given Jack Stanton’s larger-than-life personality and extremely bent penis, the main conflicts of First Man’s picaresque plot revolve around Jack’s outsize appetites and Susan and her staff’s comic attempts to contain and conceal these appetites. The hijinx that ensue are uproariously entertaining, believe me. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or independent, you will laugh out loud at Jack Stanton’s septuagenarian sexual misadventures with a plethora of halfwit floozies of every nation, color, and creed.
Ultimately, the movie careers toward a climax involving Archie Mayweather who must have his revenge against the Stantons for defeating him at the ballot box. Archie schemes to draw Jack back into the illicit ‘Alice Underground’ a network of private jets, luxury yachts, and palatial pads used for exclusive sex parties established in the U.S. during the carefree 1990s by disgraced New York financier Joshua Gopnick (Bruce Altman).
Archie and Jack had both severed their ties to the Alice Underground years before after the billionaire Gopnick served 13 months in prison for soliciting prostitution from girls as young as 14. But can Jack really turn down Archie’s invitation to join him on a cruise out to Gopnick’s private isle in the Virgin Islands, especially when Archie guarantees him everything will be kept on the ‘down low’? I won’t spoil it – you have to watch the movie to find out.
While it may seem like a stretch to be able to emphasize with a character as devoid of morals and ethics and as ready to rape and deceive women as Jack Stanton, John Travolta achieves the impossible once again with his winning performance that channels the real life Bill Clinton’s phenomenal charisma with verve and wit.
Mike Nichols died in 2014, leaving it up to Elaine May (who wrote the original Primary Colors’ Oscar-nominated screenplay) to helm First Man. It is often forgotten that Elaine May was once a director of acclaimed films such as The Heartbreak Kid and Mikey and Nicky. It seems only fitting that she returns to the director’s chair to tell a story about the dynamics of a couple where the man overshadows the woman at every turn, even when the woman becomes the most powerful person on the planet. She understands this all too common pattern better than most.
TL; DR – John Travolta knocks it out of the park as the Clintonesque rapist-pedophile Jack Stanton in this dark but hilarious follow up to the critically acclaimed Primary Colors.
What the rest of the critics are saying:
“John Travolta’s back, baby! And he’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com
“John Travolta has always been the ‘Bill Clinton of Hollywood’ in a way making this movie an apt homecoming.” – Pie Corbett, USA Today
“This is a movie that – Bill or no Bill – doesn’t need to take a political stance to make a political statement.” – Alison Wilmore, Buzzfeed News
“John Travolta oozes all the charm of a man who has been convincing people to do things against their best interest for his entire life.” – Lester Carpet, The Point Magazine
“A deceptive hatchet job against Clinton family and a true insult to mother. Zero stars. Negative three and a half verrits.”- Peter Daou, Verrit.blogspot.com
“A pox on John Travolta and the entire House of Scientology for this travesty that dares tarnish the Clintons’ good name” – Adam Parkhomenko, VoteHillary.org
“A merciless portrait of the most venal and unscrupulous political operators of our time, the Stantons are an indictment not just of the Clintons but also the Bushes, the Trumps and myriad other stupendously wealthy and deeply immoral business-political dynasties that have done so much to destroy our republic.” – Legs Lavish, New York Observer
“A hagiographic portrayal of Bill Clinton that only includes his documented history as a rapist, without nary a mention of his murdering and coke addiction and drug dealing.” – Adam Yoshida, Washington Times
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