Screenwriter Jeremy Lardner earned an Oscar for The Candidate, a sharp, unsentimental, mordantly funny dissection of big-time politics. More surprising by far, though, was Robert Redford not receiving an Oscar nod after one of the strongest, most nuanced performances of his career. He plays a decent, left-leaning Californian, Bill McKay, with zero political experience, plucked from obscurity by a Democratic operative and prepped to run against a popular GOP senator. Lardner’s script and Michael Ritchie’s sure direction deftly outline McKay’s gradual abandonment of his principles as he grows increasingly comfortable with the moral ambiguities of the campaign trail. But what viewers will most clearly remember long after the screen goes dark is Redford’s sympathetic portrayal of a good man seduced by the mere prospect of power.
Next Wag the Dog (1997)