As Dickie Pilager, a clueless, inarticulate candidate for governor with a powerful politician for a father, sinister corporate backers, and an Everyman's Midwestern twang, Chris Cooper mimics our president's inflections down to the last malaprop. But director John Sayles intended his film -- about a disgraced ex-journalist (Danny Huston) who uncovers a conspiracy while investigating a dead body on the set of a Pilager TV ad -- to be a much broader attack.
''I based the character on Bush because I wanted people to connect the dots between the movie and what's going on in our country,'' he says. ''But when you get past that, there's stuff that applies to all politicians and our whole system.'' Sayles wrote, directed, and finished the sprawling drama in a year, intent on a preelection release that he hopes inspires the public to think...and act. ''You can't expect Spider-Man to come and fix [things],'' he says. His cast seems to be equally dedicated: When asked if she's nervous about being in such a partisan film, Maria Bello (who plays Huston's ex) replies, ''I'd be happy to be a part of any film that helps get George Bush out of office.'' That would be a no, then.
What's at stake Everything from Sayles making his money back to the 2004 election, technically.