An Honest Review Of 'The Politician'

It's the darker, wittier sister of 'Glee' and 'Jawbreaker.'
PHOTO: The Politician/Netflix

The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers

High school senior Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) has one goal: to be president of the United States. In order to achieve this, he needs to accomplish two things: One, become president of the student body; And two, get into Harvard. Yes, Payton is smart, driven, passionate, and has what it takes to succeed. But he lacks the charisma and isn't the most likable person in school. The odds are against him, especially since he's also competing against River Barkley (David Corenswet), the school's all-American jock and Payton's Mandarin tutor. River is popular, sensitive, and compassionate—everything Payton isn't.

In order to compete against him (and win!), Payton needs to find a running mate who is as popular as River. Enter Infinity Jackson (Zoey Deutch), his cancer-stricken classmate. Infinity becomes his golden ticket, his sympathy vote. Suddenly, Payton's popularity in school soars. To his classmates, he is now sensitive. He understands. He's compassionate to the needs of his classmates. All is well, and Payton becomes such a strong contender for student body president. But Infinity has a dark secret and could cause Payton's downfall.

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The Short, Honest Plot

A show about what it takes to navigate high school politics. 

Even Shorter, And Still Honest

The darker, wittier sister of Glee and Jawbreaker

The Actors And Where You Last Saw Them

Ben Platt as Payton Hobart

Ben was last seen on Broadway as the lead actor in Dear Evan Hansen, where he bagged a 2017 Tony Award for Lead Actor in a Musical. Prior to that, he played the awkward, magic-loving Benji in Pitch Perfect, alongside Anna Kendrick and Hailey Steinfeld.

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Zoey Deutch as Infinity Jackson

Zoey returns to Netflix following her romantic comedy Set It Up, but you might have seen her in Vampire Academy, Dirty Grandpa, and Before I Fall.

Lucy Boynton as Astrid Sloan

The British-American actress first captivated audiences in Bohemian Rhapsody, where she played Mary Austin, Freddie Mercury's girlfriend. Her real-life boyfriend is Rami Malek, who—yup, you guessed it—played Freddie Mercury in the same movie.

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Laura Dreyfuss as McAffee

Laura starred alongside Platt in Dear Evan Hansen, but fans of Glee will always recognize her as Madison McCarthy in the show's sixth season.

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David Corenswet as River Barkley

The newcomer has had a string of one-offs in shows like Elementary and House of Cards, but we think we'll be seeing more him especially since he'll be starring in Hollywood, alongside Darren Criss and Dylan McDermott.

 

Theo Germaine as James

You haven't read much about Theo Germaine, who plays one of Payton's campaign managers and greatest allies, but you will.

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Gwyneth Paltrow as Georgina Hobart

You probably last saw her as Tony Stark's wife, Pepper Potts, in The Avengers franchise. When she isn't kicking ass in the big screen or playing Payton's mom in The Politician, she's probably tending to her fairly small, $250 million (P12.9 billion) beauty and wellness empire Goop. Ya might have heard of it.

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Jessica Lange as Dusty Jackson

Fans of American Horror Story will know Jessica Lange as Constance Langdon, Sister Jude, and Fiona Goode.

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Did You Know?

1. Executive Producer Ryan Murphy has been collaborating with the show's co-creators Ian Brennan and Brian Falchuk for years. The trio worked on Glee, Scream Queens, Nip/Tuck, and Pose together.

2. Ryan Murphy recently inked a $300 million (P15.6 billion) contract with Netflix. His string of shows under the Netflix empire include American Crime Story's The People v. O.J. Simpson, and The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Fans of the crime drama will be thrilled to know that Ryan has also signed on to do a third installment of the show—Impeachment—this time focusing on former US President Bill Clinton's sex scandal with his then-intern Monica Lewinsky. Monica herself is producing the show.

3. Brian Falchuk is actually Gwyneth Paltrow's husband. And he wrote Gwyneth's character, Georgina Hobart, with his wife in mind.

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4. Ben Platt is also among the show's executive producers. And while he admitted he didn't dwell on the show's soundtrack (the show opens with Sufjan Stevens' 2005 song "Chicago" in case you were wondering) or song list, Ben says he felt that as the executive producer, it was his responsibility to bring the cast together. "I wanted to foster a community on set. [I wanted them] to come to me with things, and I would sort of be a liaison between the creative team and the cast, particularly because I was the only member of the team that was there all the time."

"For Ryan Murphy to give me the opportunity to have a seat at the table creatively, and to be involved as a producer put a fire under my butt to invest in the whole piece—not just in my own performance, which was a beautiful experience. I hope to keep doing that," Ben tells Cosmo.

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5. Jessica Lange often went off-script during her scenes. Zoey says it was a huge honor playing the granddaughter of "her Lange-ness" on screen—and the best part about it was that Jessica never stuck to her lines. "We were always each other's gauge if we were going too far or we needed to push further. We were kind of each other’s parameter for insanity," Zoey revealed.

6. Munchausen by Proxy is a real illness. We won't reveal exactly how this illness plays out in the show, but in case you're curious and you need to Google—it's real. It's a psychological disorder that allows the caretaker to fake or exaggerate a patient's symptoms so that the patient psychologically feels sick.

What I Think:

It's definitely not a typical high school TV show with a shallow plot.

Ryan Murphy, Brian Falchuk, and Ian Brennan have done exceptionally well penning a script that shows multiple themes and storylines (some of which, I wish were developed further). I thought the dialogue was fantastic, and I found myself trying to pause an episode, just so I could write down a smart one-liner or a funny comeback.

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Lots of good talents in this mix, and I thought it was well cast. Ben takes a lot of credit in this show, and he deserves it. Payton isn't a very likable character, but Ben makes him work so Payton grows on you. Laura's McAffee is so much fun to watch on screen, and her nonchalant attitude towards everything is hilarious. Gwyneth Paltrow didn't even have to try. She came in as Gwyneth Paltrow and that was that. "This is the fourth time somebody's jumped out of a window when I've tried to break up with them," Georgina Hobart, or—err, Gwyneth?—says in an episode. I know a lot of people who've seen the show will argue that Georgina is a non-character, but she made the show so much more interesting for me.

 

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The cinematography felt like it was lifted from the Wes Anderson school of symmetry and color, which I loved because it never felt forced. Props to the show's costume designers, Lou Eyrich and Claire Parkinson, who married '50s and '70s fashion into a cohesive fashion story. 

Satire never really bodes well for Filipino audiences, and this show is satirical, so it might not be something you enjoy at the get-go, but it's funny, engaging, and the cast is magnetic. It's also not a show you put on when you're doing your nails or cutting vegetables on your kitchen counter, because a lot the dialogue and the characters are very cerebral.

Although I'm not a huge fan of dark comedies, I enjoyed The Politician. Lots of complicated turns and twists. Plus, it sheds light on a lot of mental issues that people need to discuss, without feeling as if it were forced down.

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I'd Recommend It To:

Viewers who love a good one-liner, because there's a lot of smart dialogue in the show. "I'm a stone-cold bitch with ice in my veins," is a solid line to deliver for days when you just can't deal. Also, viewers who like dark comedies, anything with Ryan Murphy's stamp, or those who enjoy watching Gwyneth Paltrow play Gwyneth Paltrow. 5/5, would recommend.

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