It's structured like an old-time Hollywood fable, which is to say it's altogether too familiar and corny. It makes its points too glibly, and therefore at the expense of drama. Joan Allen plays Senator Hanson, who is nominated to fill the vice-presidency after the VP dies in office. She is opposed by Gary Oldman's committee chairman, a self-righteous mudslinger in the Joe McCarthy mold. Allen's senator refuses to dignify his attacks by defending herself.

Hanson is seemingly the only character in the movie with Character. Even Jeff Bridges' president is a horse trader and a sneak. Hanson steadfastly refuses to answer the questions about her sexual escapades in college because, as she repeatedly tells us, to do so would be like saying it's okay to ask that kind of personal question. (Yet we, the audience, are treated to several stills from a frat party, and even a short video segment.) So okay, she's got integrity! She's not at all conflicted about letting Oldman and his sleaze merchants get away with the low blows. She's above the fray, and it's a little too much, really. You feel no tension within her over this, and it might have been nice to see the character having some doubts, or at least getting angry about it. But this is the kind of crowd where the backstabbers and their victims get together for martinis after the day's bloodletting is done.

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Then at the end of the movie it is revealed that there was no truth to any of the allegations. So not only does Senator Hanson have integrity, but she's a saint as well! She's all ready to withdraw from the confirmation process when the President steps in, makes his grandiose speech (to a joint session, mind you), and saves the day. Oldman slinks away like the coward we knew he was, and Allen, who is not even present (above the fray, remember?) for this climactic moment, gets to be VP and keep her dignity! Hooray for the good guys!

It's all too derivative of Frank Capra (see Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) for my taste - a pre-Watergate picture set in the post-Watergate era. Sorry if that's a bit cynical. I can take Capra pictures, with their nostalgic patina, but this feels like Capra regurgitated, which is no good at all.