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"THE CONTENDER"
(2000) (Joan Allen, Gary Oldman) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Minor None Extreme Mild None
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None None None Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Extreme Mild Minor Heavy Minor


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Nominated to fill the vacant Vice-Presidential post, a U.S. Senator finds her nomination in danger after a conservative House committee chairman tries to use allegations of her alleged prior sexual escapades to embarrass her and the Presidency.
PLOT:
It's been three weeks since the Vice-President of the United States died and second-term President Jackson Evans (JEFF BRIDGES) needs to fill the post. Although Governor Jack Hathaway (WILLIAM PETERSEN) appears to be the top Democratic candidate, his recent failed attempt at saving a drowning woman worries Evans that voters will be reminded of the Chappaquiddick incident from the late '60s.

As such, he decides that Ohio Senator Laine Hanson (JOAN ALLEN) should be the candidate for the job. Although Chief of Staff Kermit Newman (SAM ELLIOT) and White House Communications Director Jerry Toliver (SAUL RUBINEK) realize it will be a tough battle successfully getting an atheistic, pro-choice and former Republican woman nominated, they stand by the President's decision and proceed with the process which begins with a standard FBI background check run by special agent Paige Willomina (KATHRYN MORRIS).

Chief among their obstacles is Illinois Congressman Shelly Runyon (GARY OLDMAN), an older, conservative statesman who will oversee and run the nomination process through his committee. Joined by freshman Delaware Congressman Reginald Webster (CHRISTIAN SLATER), Runyon proceeds to do whatever he can within his power to make sure that he defeats Laine's nomination.

As the process begins, allegations soon fly about Laine's past as photos and stories of her wild collegiate life are uncovered, including that of her simultaneously having sex with two men. Attempting to maintain her dignity, Laine refuses to acknowledge the allegations or discuss her past, stating that it's no one's business and has no bearing on her qualifications.

Nonetheless, things begin to spiral out of control for Laine and her husband, William (ROBIN THOMAS), especially when new allegations arise regarding his previous wife, Cynthia Lee (MARIEL HEMMINGWAY). As the White House tries to apply major damage control and the various pundits offer their opinions of how to proceed, a strategic political game then develops between those who favor and those who oppose the nomination, with Laine trying to stay above the fray as each party willingly tries to do whatever it takes to emerge victorious.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Those who are fans of politically based films (or the TV show "West Wing") or anyone in the cast might want to see it, although it doesn't seem very attractive to preteens unless they fall into either of those groups.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For strong sexual content and language.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • JOAN ALLEN plays a U.S. Senator who must deal with allegations of wild sexual escapades from her collegiate days when she's nominated to fill the vacant Vice Presidential post. A pro-choice atheist, she's a Republican-turned Democrat who firmly believes that her past is just that, that it has no bearing on her abilities in the position and that she won't dignify such allegations by discussing them with anyone. She briefly uses strong profanity.
  • GARY OLDMAN plays a conservative Congressman who's so against her nomination that he'll do anything (including some illegal activity) to defeat and embarrass her, all while trying to act like a righteous and fair man. He also smokes cigars and uses strong profanity.
  • JEFF BRIDGES plays the President of the United States who decides to stand behind his nomination despite the allegations. He briefly smokes and also uses strong profanity as well as his political prowess and knowledge to get what he wants.
  • CHRISTIAN SLATER plays a freshman Congressman who's also against Laine's nomination, but takes a more objective approach in his line of thinking and behavior, although he initially sides and works quite closely with Runyon.
  • SAM ELLIOT plays the smooth-talking White House Chief of Staff who does what he can to make sure the nomination goes through. He uses strong profanity.
  • WILLIAM PETERSEN plays a Governor who so desperately wants to be nominated for the V.P. position that he ends up breaking the law while doing so.
  • SAUL RUBINEK plays the White House Communications Director who uses strong profanity while infuriated over Runyon's and the others' tactics against Laine.
  • ROBIN THOMAS plays the Senator's husband who also becomes infuriated over the allegations and how his wife is being treated. We learn that he had an affair with Laine during his first marriage.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a quick look at the content found in this R-rated political drama. Profanity is rated as extreme due to the use of at least 33 "f" words, while various other expletives and colorful phrases are also uttered. A Vice-Presidential nominee is accused of participating in sordid sexual activity back when she was in college, and we see a flashback to an encounter with two men (one having sex with a woman from behind while she concurrently performs oral sex on another man).

    That scene includes brief movement and nudity, and is seen a few times, while a still photo of that encounter is also seen. Some fooling around between a married couple is heard, an affair from the past is discussed and sexually explicit dialogue is also present.

    Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes (some of them rather extreme), while those sensitive to certain topics such as abortion and atheism should note that some discussions about those occur (with major characters taking stances on those issues). A woman accidentally drowns in a car that crashes and sinks into a large body of water (a scene that may be tense/unsettling to some viewers), while a few characters drink and smoke.

    Should the above not alleviate any concerns you might have about the film and its appropriateness for anyone in your home who wishes to see it, you may want to take a closer look at our detailed content listings for more specific examples of what occurs in the film.



    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Webster has what looks like a drink.
  • A man drinks a beer in a restaurant.
  • The President and Runyon have wine with dinner.
  • Laine admits to being drunk while fooling around with some guys in college (with her drunkenness leading to that activity).
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • None.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Some viewers may not like Laine's father complaining about the mix of religion and government (pertaining to his grandson learning in school and then repeating that Baby Jesus is responsible for everything).
  • The same holds true for Laine's statement that she's an atheist and supports a woman's right to choose (regarding abortion).
  • Others will see Runyon and what amounts to his sexual witch hunt, as well as other efforts to derail Laine's nomination as having both, especially when he's responsible for spreading some of the rumors about her (which he does in an underhanded way). He also calls her a cancer of affirmative action.
  • A TV program sets up Laine in a live interview to make her look bad.
  • Runyon drills Laine about what she would do if she became the President and then got pregnant (implying that fertile women are not good Presidential/Vice Presidential candidates).
  • We learn that William had an affair with Laine (who was single) while he was still married to Cynthia Lee.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • A car crashes off a bridge, landing and then sinking in a large body of water. Governor Hathaway, who's fishing nearby, dives in and tries to save the driver, a panicking woman, but can't get the door open. As a result, she drowns and we briefly see the frozen expression on her now dead face.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • None.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "What the f*ck?" "F*cked us over," "F*ck me now" (nonsexual), "Who the f*ck cares?" "F*ck you," "You f*cked up," "Bullsh*t," "Piece of sh*t," "Full of sh*t," "Gang banged" (sex with several men), "Laid" (sexual), "Balls" (testicles), "Bastard(s)," "Gives a rat's ass," "Take it up the ass," "Smooth as a baby's ass," "Who the hell knows," "Bitch," "Knuckleheads," what sounded like "Pen d*cks," "Slut," "I don't give a G*ddamn," "Groovy chick" (woman), "Kicking my ass," "Jeez" and "Pisses me off."
  • Various people create and spread false rumors about Laine's past.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 33 "f" words (5 used sexually as is the term, "laid"), 17 "s" words, 4 slang terms for/using male genitals ("c*ck," "d*ck" and "pr*ck"), 7 asses (2 used with "hole"), 7 hells, 5 damns, 3 S.O.B.s, 6 uses of "G-damn," 3 of "Jesus Christ," 2 each of "God" and "Jesus" and 1 use each of "Christ," "For Christ's sakes," "For God's sakes" and "Oh Christ" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • As we see footage of Hathaway on TV and a telephone rings, we hear sexual sounds and then see Laine's husband answer the phone (we briefly see part of the bottom of his bare butt as his dress shirt briefly rides up on his body). We then see Laine lying on the bed clothed, but a bit disheveled.
  • A man brings out the first alleged photos of Laine having sex with several men. He refers to it as a "gang bang" and then says it's hard to tell if it's really her with her head in some man's crotch.
  • In an interview, a person describes Laine's alleged sexual activity. As they do so, we see a brief flashback to it that includes a shot of a man having sex from behind a young woman while she kneels and performs oral sex on another man (no penetration or actual oral sex is seen, although some brief movement and nudity is). We then see another shot of her walking by and briefly see her bare breasts. As we see this, we hear that person commenting on her "sucking and f*cking" and then again about her "f*cking" them and then coming out and being "covered in cum."
  • Later, Laine's husband shows her the photos of the above, but we don't see the front of them, although we do briefly see another shot of the above (a person having sex behind a young woman as she has oral sex with another man with some brief movement and nudity).
  • Someone makes a joke (about the above) that they can't imagine the Vice President with "a mouthful of c*ck."
  • Kermit wants to find some sexual dirt on Runyon such as anything involving boys, midgets or cows.
  • As they part ways, Laine tells Runyon that he probably doesn't want a woman with her finger on the button who "isn't getting laid."
  • From a distance, we see a still photo of the above scene (a man behind a woman who's performing oral sex on another man) as well as the words "sex train" and "fellatio."
  • The President makes a joke about needing people with sexual indiscretions in their past to vote for them and that they'd then win by a landslide.
  • A man on a live TV talk show states that he had sex with Laine when she was drunk in college.
  • Laine talks with Webster stating that if she were a man, no one would care how many sexual partners she had in college.
  • We learn that William had an affair with Laine (who was single) while he was still married to Cynthia Lee.
  • Kermit comments about Laine "f*cking" Will while he was married to Cynthia. The President then says that she's a sex-crazed home wrecking machine and a female Warren Beatty. Kermit then says that he doesn't care "who you f*ck, how many times and how many positions - as long as it doesn't threaten the Administration."
  • Laine tells the President what happened in college. She states that as part of her sorority initiation, she was supposed to have sex with guys from their associate fraternity. She refused, but after six beers, went there and encountered two guys in towels, one of which slipped it off. She then states that she saw his "thing" and took it in her hand, but all she could think of saying was that she didn't smoke. She then goes on to say that nothing else happened and that she didn't take off her clothes.
  • SMOKING
  • Runyon smokes several times (including cigars), while the president smokes a cigarette once and then smokes cigars with Laine (although she coughs from hers after inhaling).
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • The allegations about Laine's past as well as the overall nomination process put a bit of a strain on her relationship with her husband (but certainly nothing tremendous), while we learn that he and his former wife were divorced because of his affair with Laine.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Whether someone's sexual past has or should have any bearing on his or her political capabilities or future.
  • The abortion issue (it's discussed here).
  • Atheism (it's also discussed here).
  • Laine's steadfast refusal to discuss or dignify the allegations even when she knows they're not true.
  • Runyon's questions to Laine about what she would do if she became President and then got pregnant.
  • The double standard in regards to a man's sexual past vs. a woman's sexual past.
  • VIOLENCE
  • A car crashes off a bridge, landing and then sinking in a large body of water. Governor Hathaway, who's fishing nearby, dives in and tries to save the driver, a panicking woman, but can't get the door open. As a result, she drowns.



  • Reviewed October 10, 2000 / Posted October 13, 2000

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