Swing Vote (2008)

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This is one of those “Hmmm, It could happen…” films that takes a satirical look at our election process and the media frenzy it causes. Every outlet wants to be the first to break the really big story, but this story could not happen to a more simple man. Bud Johnson(Kevin Costner) is the small town guy who lost his big dreams to “insourcing” and beer. His daughter, Molly(Madeline Carroll) is really the adult in their family, as she is the one who makes sure he gets to work on time, and does the cleaning and cooking in their little double-wide mobile home in Texico, New Mexico. Texico is a Southwestern crossroads desert town filled populated with people from all colours and creeds in the region. The biggest employer in Texico is a local egg farm and processing plant, which is where Bud works.

This is a presidential election years, and Molly has been learning about the political process in school, and is really excited about the upcoming Election Day. Bud promises to meet with her at the bingo hall/polling station after he gets off work, but he never makes it to the bingo hall because he gets drunk at the bar down the street after getting fired. Security cameras caught him drinking on the job, and he has a poor record of attendance and tardiness this year, as well. He realises he’s late, and heads to the bingo hall, but he runs into a sign and bumps his head. He tries to get his truck running, but passes out in the front seat due to the head injury and the alcohol. At the bingo hall, Molly sees the two people the place are not really paying attention to her. The old veteran at the sign in is asleep, and the old woman is cleaning the place up. She sneaks in, signs Bud’s name, and takes a ballot, and goes into the booth. The old woman runs over the cord to the voting machines with the mop bucket, and they are unplugged just as Molly is about to make her vote. Not knowing what to do, Molly takes the ballot stub, and leaves the blank ballot in the machine, which prompts the machine as an error. Later that night, some state officials visit with Bud and Molly to find out why Bud’s vote did not take. It turns out that the presidential election count was so close that his one missing vote is the one that will effect which why the country will go. The New Mexico election officials tell them to keep it secret, but a local reporter, Kate Madison (Paula Patton) breaks the story, and newsteams show up in tiny Texico from everywhere. From FoxNews to the BBC, they are all there, all to learn about Bud and Molly.

The two candidates, Incumbant President Republican Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer) and Democrat Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper) then get into some crazy competition to win Bud’s vote through the machinations of their equally slimy and ambitious campaign managers, Art Crumb (Nathan Lane) and Martin Fox (Stanley Tucci), and the media frenzy continues as outrageous ads are created on the fly to gain Bud’s attention for all the wrong reasons, based on hearsay from what reporters quote Bud on saying. Bud has never really gotten all that into politics, and could say anything and these guys would make an advertisement for it. They hire Richard Petty to get him to Boone’s camp, then Willie Nelson to get him over to Greenleaf’s. Mail comes in from all over the country from desparate people asking for Bud’s get their situations noticed by the candidates. Molly takes it upon herself to answer the letters, but still sees that Bud is confused by all the attention and still has no idea of what is being asked of him, and that’s when she turns to Kate for help to educate Bud.

This is a heartwarming movie in places, and has some great lines that will make you laugh. Some parts of the script hit home strongly, and makes everyday Americans see part of themselves in this film. I don’t know if this sort of thing will happen in the near future, but if it does, I’d hate to be reality’s version of Bud Johnson. It is not part of your civic duty to watch Swing Vote, but if you’ve had enough of the real political circus, this one from Texico, New Mexico is a funny but provocative look into another version of it, and worth every minute of it.

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