“The Candidate” (1972) stars Robert Redford as Bill McKay who is a Democratic idealist and the son of former governor John J. McKay. Bill has never had any motivation to run for Senator but he is sought out by political election specialist Marvin Lucas, played by a hardly recognizable Peter Boyle, to be the Democratic Candidate. The catch is that Bill can do whatever he wants since he will undoubtedly lose to the popular Conservative Senator Crocker Jarmon. Bill agrees to run. But another catch is soon to come.
At first, McKay is resistant to a lot of what his campaign managers urge him to do including curbing his own words to fit the likeness of the audience members and endorse his father’s name to fuel his votes. The temptation to win becomes so great for McKay and the people around him that everyone pushes to see McKay ultimately topple Jarmon. McKay’s newfound competitive spirit puts him at risk of losing himself and properly addressing his methods to solving society’s issues.
Throughout the film, multiple statements are subtly made in concerning the absurd nature of politics. First, the repetitiveness of unresolved issues that influence every generation such as poverty, the economy, education, abortion and war. Second, no matter who is running in either party, the speeches are nearly identical in their flowery format to get your vote to win. The last line of the film spoken by Robert Redford allows the viewers to concentrate on their own political viewpoint and if it means anything at all.
Nominated for two Academy Awards, “The Candidate” won the Oscar for Best Writing. It was also honored with a Writer’s Guild Association Award for screenwriter Jeremy Larner for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen. The film features cameos by Robert Redford’s close friend and actress Natalie Wood as a Mckay supporter at one of his benefits. Groucho Marx also makes an uncredited walk-on cameo that was considered his last on-screen appearance. However, no one seems to know where he can be seen. Can you find where he is?