The Last Debate

  • 2000
  • Movie
  • R
  • Drama, Political

This slick, made-for-cable adaptation of news anchor Jim Lehrer's novel tries to provide both pro and con positions on the media and how they shape public opinion, but too often winds up doing viewers' thinking for them. Liberal Democratic Governor Paul Green (Bruce Gray) is battling conservative Republican candidate Richard Meredith (Stephen Young) for...read more

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Reviewed by Robert Pardi
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This slick, made-for-cable adaptation of news anchor Jim Lehrer's novel tries to provide both pro and con positions on the media and how they shape public opinion, but too often winds up doing viewers' thinking for them. Liberal Democratic Governor Paul Green (Bruce Gray) is battling conservative Republican candidate Richard Meredith (Stephen Young) for the U.S. presidency. Green's campaign manager, Brad Lily (Dorian Harewood), badgers his boss to take pre-emptive jabs at his opponent, but winds up getting on his boss's bad side. Considerable campaigning also surrounds choosing which media representatives will moderate the upcoming presidential debates; nasty accusations fly between Lily and Meredith's advisor, Jack Turpin (Michael Riley), before the two camps select the moderator and three panelists. Presiding over this shooting match will be legendary Washington Herald columnist Mike Howley (James Garner); the panel will comprise TV anchor Joan Naylor (Donna Murphy), radio host Henry Ramirez (Marco Sanchez) and print journalist Barbara Manning (Audra MacDonald). Meanwhile behind the scenes, newsman Tom Chapman (Peter Gallagher) digs for dirt to help spice up what promises to be a dull face-off. Unexpectedly, Howley causes a furor when he throws out the debate rules during national television coverage to squares off against Meredith with reports of the candidate's violent behavior. Howley's team refuses to reveal its sources, but the accusations of the four-member inquisition are enough to throw the election to Governor Greene, who, rather ungratefully, fires Mr. Lily. Sensing a story behind this spectacular media malfunction, Chapman follows Howley to his New Zealand retreat, while Howley's muckraking associates reap professional benefits from the firestorm of controversy. Did these theoretically impartial media observers have the right to influence voters, and who really tipped off Howley about Meredith's abusiveness? The film does offer food for thought; admittedly, it's fast food, rather than a intellectual gourmet meal. The able cast wrestles with the script's moral dilemmas, but the screenplay is a little too infatuated with its own cynicism.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: R
  • Review: This slick, made-for-cable adaptation of news anchor Jim Lehrer's novel tries to provide both pro and con positions on the media and how they shape public opinion, but too often winds up doing viewers' thinking for them. Liberal Democratic Governor Paul Gr… (more)

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