Blu-ray Review: Affairs of State (2018)

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More than a year after the death of the senator for whom he interned, Michael Lawson (an excellent David Corenswet) finds himself "living on borrowed time in a borrowed SUV," in desperate need of a job.

Fluent in the official language of Washington, D.C., which is telling people what they want to hear, Michael has also perfected the art of the charm attack. When he isn't hitting up his friends for leads (including his roommate Callie played by Thora Birch), he cashes in on his looks, regularly sleeping with the Ladies Who Fund in exchange for an invite or introduction to someone higher up on D.C.'s power ladder.

Far from a cad, in this awkward yet ambitious feature from director Eric Bross, Corenswet's calculating but still seemingly sincere protagonist morally resides somewhere between Warren Beatty in Shampoo and Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate.

Tired of relying on sex as his only skill set, Lawson makes a Faustian deal with Adrien Grenier's devilish political wunderkind Rob Reynolds by trading a thumb drive worth of blackmail material on a judge in exchange for a job working on the presidential campaign of Texas Senator John Baines (David James Elliott).

Looking to use this position as a stepping stone towards his own eventual congressional career, Michael gets much more than he bargained for when he falls under the spell of not only the senator's sexy but intimidating second wife, Judith (played by Mimi Rogers) but also his beautiful daughter, Darcy (Grace Victoria Cox), who has a complicated relationship with her stepmom.

Opening with Michael's timely voice over as well as a like-minded speech by Baines that addresses our divided country, Affairs of State tries to square its politics somewhere to the right of dead-center by having the candidate run under Rob's newly launched conservative-leaning United Party.

However, just like the film's bland politics and the way that Michael is with everyone he meets, instead of giving us something assured and compelling, Tom Cudworth's script falters as it tries on various genres in the hopes of delivering something for everyone.

Missing not only the cloak and dagger style intrigue – let alone suspense – needed for a potent political thriller as well as more time spent building up the love triangle aspect to create either D.C.'s Graduate or a gender-reversed play on Damage, Affairs of State unsuccessfully fuses the two half-developed plot arcs together to create something roughly average and in between.

Spending too much time with characters and subplots we could care less about and not enough time with the ones we do, by the end, we feel very little connection to any of them. And that is unfortunate indeed as I was very impressed by the way Eric Bross and Tom Cudworth handled character driven storytelling in their 1995 debut Ten Benny, starring Adrian Brody.

Watchable in a "it's late, it's on cable, and the remote's on the other side of the room and I'm too tired to get it" kind of way, while State has its moments and the cast does their best to turn their underwritten one dimensional roles into three-dimensional ones, it isn't too long before this predictable house of cards comes tumbling down.

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