HEAD OF STATE
Local Washington DC Alderman Mays Gilliam (Chris Rock) is plucked from obscurity to run as President of the United States, when the frontrunner is unexpectedly killed. Things had been looking grim for Gilliam: he has just lost his job and his fiancée (Robin Givens) has just left him. But Lisa (Tamala Jones), the pretty cashier at his local garage seems to have noticed him, and anyway, this is an opportunity of a lifetime to allow him to get in touch with ordinary people. Senator Bill Arnot (James Rebhorn) is behind the idea, scheming that when Gilliam loses big time, he will be in a good position himself to run for office in the following election. Gilliam sets on the election trail with his older brother Mitch (Bernie Mac) as his unlikely running mate, astute campaign manager Martin Geller (Dylan Baker), and on-the-money advisor Debra Lassiter (Lynn Whitfield).
Review by Louise Keller:
A mildly amusing David and Goliath story in a hip-hop rap setting, Head of State is a far-fetched fantasy about a black nobody who runs for President of the United States. Directed, co-written by and starring Chris Rock, your enjoyment of the film will depend on how much of Chris Rock you can take. With his permanent toothpaste grin and hyper-effervescent personality on display, you really need to be a fan to be into this, as Mays runs his race for the country’s top job.
Structured with an intermittent musical narration by rap star Nate Dogg, we first meet Mays as the people’s Washington DC Alderman, when he rescues a cat and its distraught owner from an about-to-be demolished apartment block. Hero for a day and feted by the local television station, Mays is plucked as the next Presidential candidate by a cynical and ambitious politician looking for a patsy. On a downhill spiral after his fiancé leaves him (‘You’re horrible in bed; I’ve met mosquitoes with more force’), and he loses his job, when he is approached to run for President, he innocently asks ‘of what?’
Suddenly he is part of an electoral campaign, complete with his own security, campaign manager (Lynn Whitfield, credible) who provides him with carefully scripted off-the-cuff remarks and a busty blonde executive director of internal liaisons who is on call for his every whim. But the object of his whims is in fact a part-time sales attendant at his local garage (Lisa Clark, appealing), who pops up as a cocktail waitress at an electoral function. Isn’t it the expected thing for a presidential candidate to ask the waitress to dance? There are a few laughs from the pairing of Rock with the indomitable Bernie Mac, whose bail bondsman brother (‘Business is great – thank God for crime’) is the most unlikely of running partners and who uses a powerful punch instead of a handshake (sometimes with Batman ‘kapow’-type sound effects).
It’s not hard to keep up; we know exactly where the film is heading, as Mays’ popularity rises on the polls just as his image becomes cool from dressing down, as he becomes the hippest of hip. Besides, pink suits, trendy shades and well-cut denim set off the giant oversize diamond studs in his lobes. After nine weeks on the election trail (with the predictable calamities), and plenty of ‘God Bless America’ declarations from the opposition, the film’s intended climax occurs at the night-before-the-election debate, when Mays declares ‘If America was a woman, she would be a big-titted woman’. Ah yes, that is the kind of profundities to expect in this totally forgettable Hollywood nonsense.
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HEAD OF STATE (M)
CAST: Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Dylan Baker, Nick Seracy, Lynn Whitfield, Robin Givens, Tamala Jones, James Rebhorn, Stephanie March
PRODUCER: Ali LeRoi, Michael Rotenberg
DIRECTOR: Chris Rock
SCRIPT: Chris Rock, Ali LeRoi
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Donald E. Thorin
EDITOR: Stephen A. Rotter
MUSIC: Marcus Miller
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen Jordan
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 16, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
VIDEO RELEASE: February 11, 2004
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.