Primary Colors

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Primary Colors ★★½ 1998 (R)

Joe Klein's anonymously published political satire is adapted for the big screen, starting off humorously and shifting into somber. Southern good ole boy, Gov. Jack Stanton (Travolta), and his savvy wife (Thompson) are after the presidential nomination and surrounded by crazy associates, including skeptical firsttime campaign manager Henry Burton (Lester). More about Henry's political baptism by fire than anything else, as he tries to accommodate his conscience to the continuous scandals and doubledealing. It really doesn't matter whether Travolta's channeling Clinton or if Thompson acts like Hilary, since the film has bigger problems. The change in tone is jarring, characters and situations disappear without warning. And given that the press act like salivating wolverines at the merest hint of scandal, the situation surrounding opponent Fred Picker (Hagman) seems farfetched at best. Still the goingson will hold your attention until they're over—and you realize it's all smokeandmirrors. 138m/C VHS, DVD . John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Adrian Lester, Kathy Bates, Billy Bob Thornton, Larry Hagman, Maura Tierney, Stacy Edwards, Diane Ladd, Gia Carides, Paul Guilfoyle, Tommy Hollis, Robert Klein, J.C. Quinn, Rob Reiner, Caroline Aaron, Allison Janney, Mykelti Williamson, Tony Shalhoub, John Vargas, Ben Jones, Bonnie Bartlett; D: Mike Nichols; W: Elaine May; C: Michael Ballhaus; M: Ry Cooder. British Acad. '98: Adapt. Screenplay; Screen Actors Guild '98: Support. Actress (Bates); Broadcast Film Critics '98: Support. Actress (Bates).