Title: Primary Colours
Genre Political Satire
Duration: 143 minutes
Year of Production: 1998
Director: Mike Nichols
Production Company: Mutual Film Company
Reviewer: Olutayo Irantiola
“You know as well as I do, that plenty of people playing this game, they don’t think that way. They’re willing to sell their souls, crawl through sewers, lie to people, divide them, play on their worst fears for nothing! Just for the prize”
- Governor Jack Stanton
In Africa, the game of politics is such peculiar, we have this assumption that we are the only race that jostles for political office with all it takes but the movie, “Primary Colors” indicate that all across the human race the desire to acquire power drives people to any length.
The movie is about the desire of Jack Stanton, the Governor of a small Southern state to run for President, he is a member of the Democratic Party and a progressive governor. His campaign tagline was People First. The charming character, played by John Travolta, has his way of attracting people and making them feel so good. This persona helped him to cover up his multitude of errors but the truth kept propping up in his face as the campaign gathers momentum.
The Governor already had a Communication team, which consists of Richard, a strategist and Daisy, a media consultant; but he believed Henry Burton starred by Adrian Lester, a young communicator, would do the magic. He wasn’t interested in Political communications because he had no prior experience but he was pulled into it. The young man met the Governor and others that paid glowing tributes to his Grandfather, a civil rights leader. In fact, before Henry consented to joining the campaign team, he was already on chartered plane to New Hampshire.
Eventually, the campaign office was located in Mississippi, Henry, a bold and firm communicator had set his mind on winning. He did set up a Rapid Response Negative Operations and equally identified his target audiences such as the State Party people; he developed a database for every congressional and state voting record and national community mailing list. He went through various documents to determine the various groups that they need to reach out to that will definitely lead to the success of his principal at the poll. The restless Henry was ready to organize other stakeholders meeting for the aspirant but his boss did not attend.
The flick got into full swing when revelation about the Presidential aspirant, Stanton, was depicted as having a flawed weakness for women. A lady alleged that the Presidential candidate has an affair with her in their home state called a press conference to discredit his candidacy. Asides, this lady, we were also told about the pregnancy of the teenage daughter of Stanton’s favourite barbecue chef; he had an erotic relationship with the woman who runs the illiteracy program amongst others.
His wife, Susan played by Emma Thompson, knew that her husband loves “anything in skirts” but she stood by him through it all, possibly because of her desire to become the First Lady. Thereafter, Susan and Jack were on a Television programme where she openly expressed her support for her husband.
All this was two weeks to the Primary elections; an emergency strategy session took place. The team wanted to prepare themselves to fight back with the truth by investing all those who can play on the secrets of the aspirant. Susan suggested that Libby Holden played by Kathy Bates, the “dust-buster” should be engaged.Libby was an old associate of Stanton and recent mental patient who came out of retirement, foul-mouthed and lusty, to dig out all the dirt before the other side can. She was helpful in supporting Henry to get some details of what had previously happened and she knew where to go.
The game thickened up between Governor Stanton and Senator Harris. The latter also used fiercely engaged in a campaign tagged, “It’s a question of Character” which was meant to further discredit Stanton, but the likeable of his personality made him win the heart of the electorate across the country as he went about addressing the need of the people. His campaign bordered on Education, which led to this utterance, “get smarter and learn new skills” on the Economy, he said, “we are living in a new world now, a world without economic borders” and Social security.
The media war in Political communications cannot be underestimated- Stanton believed so much in CNN and he got mentioned on Larry King Live; his Communication team were monitoring 3 local TV stations located at Atlanta; Washington DC and Boston at the same time while they keep an eye on The Black Advocate, a newspaper that poses a threat to the success of the campaign.
Unfortunately, Libby lost her life and Henry got more confused. He stood by Stanton until a day when he told him, he wanted to resign because he did not like the game. He told him that it was the youthful belief that good men win elections but the grown-ups realization that shrewd men do. As described by Washington Post, the time comes when he must make peace with the idea that the purest of causes many be advanced by the most impure of champions.
To sum the balance that Henry needed, Stanton won his heart by telling him, “We can do incredible things. We can change this country. I’m gonna win this thing. Look me in the eye, Henry, and tell me you don’t want to be a part of it.”
A regular Communicator who knows all the strategies and tactics to deploy for brands must know that the ball game is entirely different in Political communications. What type of Professional are you seeing in the Minister of Communication and the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity around your President?
Enjoy the thriller-