‘Grassroots,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


There’s a certain rowdy spirit to Stephen Gyllenhaal’s “Grassroots,” now playing in limited release, that gives the fact-based comedy-drama a surprising vitality for a movie that seems so schematic.

Based on a true story, the film stars Jason Biggs as a journalist named Phil Campbell, who is fired from his job as a reporter for an alternative weekly in Seattle during the summer of 2001. He lives with his girlfriend Emily (Lauren Ambrose) in a house with several other people and he’s got few prospects – until he gets a call from a pal named Grant Cogswell (Joel David Moore).

Grant is an out-of-work music critic and the kind of friend everyone seems to have one of. He’s full of opinions and theories about the way the world works, and he’s unafraid to spout them – loudly. He’s eccentric and demanding of his friends, kind of a pain in the ass to be truthful. As I said, we all know someone like that for whom we make allowances – up to a point.

Grant, however, has decided that he has found his mission in life: He is going to run for Seattle City Council, to oust a long-time incumbent named Richard McIver (Cedric the Entertainer). According to Grant, McIver is part of what’s wrong with Seattle; Grant wants Seattle to expand its monorail system – clean, sustainable mass transit – instead of building a new light-rail system that will tear up and divide neighborhoods.

He feels strongly enough about it to run for office with that as his platform. And he wants Phil to manage his campaign. Phil agrees because, well, he has nothing better to do.

Grant is a serious underdog; there are a number of candidates and Grant has to poll ahead of them to challenge McIver in the general election. Phil begins to have second thoughts when he’s offered another newspaper job – but when Grant actually survives the run-off, Phil can’t walk away.

This review continues on my website.

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