Review: Affairs of State

Though the film is ostensibly a political thriller, it more often plays like an adaptation of a trashy romance novel.

Affairs of State
Photo: Lionsgate

Director Eric Bross’s Affairs of State is a political thriller that plays like an adaptation of a trashy romance novel. While the film unfolds in Washington, D.C. just as the presidential campaign of a prominent conservative senator, John Baines (David James Elliott), is getting off the ground, its concerns about the corruption and backstabbing of our current political climate rarely move beyond the crotch of hunky political novice Michael Lawson (David Corenswet). Looking to make his mark in our nation’s capital, Michael uses his only detectable talent—his sexual prowess—to get his foot in the door. Unfortunately, Corenswet’s performance doesn’t possess the charisma, ruthlessness, and desperation to make Michael’s rapid rise through the ranks of the political world feel either convincing or authentic.

Aside from proving his loyalty to Baines and his campaign by getting rid of the sole copy of a sex tape that would destroy the career of one of the senator’s potential judicial appointees, Michael does little of consequence in Affairs of State besides bang a string of women: first a wealthy donor, Mary Maples (Faye Grant); then Baines’s wife, Judith (Mimi Rogers); and finally the senator’s daughter, Darcy (Grace Victoria Fox). Except for Mary, Michael’s sexual conquests are less strategic than indiscriminate. Throughout Bross’s film, Michael’s dick is so irresistible to everyone in Washington that it’s surprising that there isn’t an Infinity Stone attached to it. Not only does every woman of influence he meets immediately pounce on him, but even Jerry Dodd (Richard Strauss), the head strategist for one of Baines’s political opponents, admiringly checks out Michael’s manhood from the next urinal over before attempting to recruit the young man to help sabotage Baines’s campaign.

While Michael refuses Dodd’s offer, the young upstart’s best friend and roommate, Callie (Thora Birch), a hacker who likens Baines and the senator’s United Party to fascists, relishes the opportunity to compromise the senator’s presidential aspirations. But the secondary subplot involving Callie’s collusion with Dodd and the friction it creates between Callie and Michael is by and large ancillary to the Lifetime-movie-level drama of Michael’s volatile love triangle with Judith and Darcy. Eventually, the filmmakers tie these two disparate storylines together in time for a surprisingly bleak and pessimistic finale, but the critique of Washington’s pervasive corruption comes far too late in the game to land a substantive blow. As Affairs of State’s primary interests lie almost exclusively between the sheets, the intermittent jabs taken at establishment politics feel like disingenuous, cheap shots intended to give the film a sense of depth and gravity that it doesn’t earn.

 Cast: David Corenswet, Thora Birch, Mimi Rogers, Adrian Grenier, David James Elliott, Grace Victoria Cox, Brandon Hardesty, Faye Grant  Director: Eric Bross  Screenwriter: Tom Cudworth  Distributor: Lionsgate  Running Time: 97 min  Rating: R  Year: 2018  Buy: Video

Derek Smith

Derek Smith's writing has appeared in Tiny Mix Tapes, Apollo Guide, and Cinematic Reflections.

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