Movie Review: Swing Vote

Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) and his daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll)

“Bud, wake up! Can you please take me to school on time for a change?”

Molly wakes up Bud most mornings. He is a drunk who sleeps in his clothes most of the time. They live in a trailer in Texico, New Mexico, a town of some 600 people and an egg factory.  Since Molly calls him “Bud”, we can’t quite figure out their relationship until some minutes into the movie. She is his daughter, but she serves him like a mother, except she can’t drive the truck — legally, at least. Bud is a loser and drunk and he gets no respect from anyone. Not from his coworkers, not from his friends, not from his boss and not  from his daughter. He loses his job at the egg factory. It seems his boss is convinced that illegal aliens can do a better job than he.

It is election day and Bud passes out drunk in his truck. Molly tries to live up to his civic duty on his behalf and puts his ballot in a machine. The power is cut by accident, and Bud has registered, signed the ballot book and the machine does not cast his ballot.

The outcome of the election happens to be similar to that between Bush and Gore in 2000. But here, rather than coming down to 400 ballots in Dade County, Florida, it comes down to 1 ballot in Texico, New Mexico: Bud’s. The New Mexico election commissioner certifies that Bud has to recast his ballot ten days hence.

One man will decide which of the two candidates will become president. It becomes an entirely different campaign. Bud is pursued like a hero by the media, the people and, you guessed it, the candidates and their campaigners. Molly becomes his coach, and the whole world is watching on live TV.

This is a light comedy with an unlikely story; after the 2000 election not quite as unlikely anymore. It’s not a movie I will remember as one where I learned a lot of lessons, but I very much enjoyed Kevin Costner’s great job acting out this character, I got a lot of laughs in, and I did not regret spending a couple of hours watching the spectacle.

Rating: **

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