Sunday, July 1, 2012

Grassroots (SIFF 2012) - Movie Review

"Grassroots" is a movie that tells the true story of struggling Seattle resident Phil Campbell (Jason Biggs) who, after losing his job at the Stranger, decides to become his best friend Grant Cogswell's (Joel David Moore) campaign manager for an unlikely run at a seat on the Seattle City Council in 2001. The film was directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal with an independent spirit that matches its subject matter and manages to entertain on multiple levels.

Equal parts drama, comedy, love story, and biographical tale, this movie manages to capture the same independent spirit that fueled Campbell and Cogswell on their unlikely run through local politics. The driving force of the story is the campaign and how Cogswell claims victory after victory despite a reckless style and brash personality that gains just as many opponents as supporters.

Using expansion of the monorail as a seed for gaining support of his platform which focuses on changing the system and attacking incumbent Richard McIver (Cedric the Entertainer), he manages to strike a note at first with the hipster community and expands his reach from there. Using guerrilla campaign tactics and savvy marketing, Campbell finds ways to control Cogswell's image and keep everything on track even while his personal life and relationship with girlfriend Emily Bowen continues to fall apart.

As a resident of Seattle, I had a great time recognizing streets, buildings, business, and other details of the Emerald City that I walk through or pass by on an almost daily basis. Fortunately this was also a very good story as well with a great message, some hilarious comedy, and a few scenes that really pull on some serious emotion.

One scene in particular where the characters are witnessing a globally significant event unfold on TV and how they react to it had me seriously choked up and I heard lots of sniffling by fellow audience members who were trying in vain to hold back tears.

Stephen Gyllenhaal manages to pull all the right strings with a cast that includes supporting roles played by Lauren Ambrose, Tom Arnold, Cobie Smulders, and Emily Bergl. While Jason Biggs gives a more reserved performance than what he is most commonly known for, I was very impressed with Joel David Moore and how much he threw himself in to the part. His portrayal of Cogswell really sells the entire production and may not have worked as well as it does in someone else's hands.

Check out my other 2012 SIFF reviews HERE!

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