Robert Redford's lawyer is somehow persuaded it would be a good idea to run as a senator, but knowing nothing about politics he decides to set his own agenda, successful or not. Then gradually as his campaign takes flight, he realises he is actually in with a chance, although his family may be at stake as he alienates himself.
Before he became a faceless hack specialising in forgettable comedy vehicles (Fletch, The Couch Trip, The Golden Child), Michael Ritchie was one of the most penetrating observers of the American Scene, and directed a series of very smart, very funny, very pointed pictures about comeptitive endeavours, from beauty contests (Smile) to little league baseball (The Bad News Bears).
Here, he lays into the political circus with the uncannily convincing story of a glamour boy lawyer (Robert Redford) who is conned by a huckster (Peter Boyle) into mounting a senatorial bid on the grounds that he’s bound to lose anyway and so is free to raise some important issues in the campaign.
However, once committed to the cause, Redford finds his ideals in shreds as Boyle’s showbiz approach takes over and whatever it was he stood for in the first place starts taking a back seat, especially in a dizzyingly sick-making scene when it turns out that the hollow man actually has a chance of winning and no actual idea of what to do if he does. Redford, brilliantly cast, has never been better, and Jeremy Larner’s snappy script won an Oscar in 1972.
With Redford giving one of his best comedic performances, helped by a Oscar winning script, The Candidate is witty and charming, while looking good and proving quite memorable, like Redford's lawyer.