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      Primary Colors

      R Released Mar 20, 1998 2h 23m Comedy Drama List
      80% Tomatometer 79 Reviews 64% Audience Score 10,000+ Ratings In this adaptation of the best-selling roman a clef about Bill Clinton's 1992 run for the White House, the young and gifted Henry Burton (Adrian Lester) is tapped to oversee the presidential campaign of Gov. Jack Stanton (John Travolta). Burton is pulled into the politician's colorful world and looks on as Stanton -- who has a wandering eye that could be his downfall -- contends with his ambitious wife, Susan, (Emma Thompson) and an outspoken adviser, Richard Jemmons (Billy Bob Thornton). Read More Read Less Watch on Fandango at Home Buy Now

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      Critics Consensus

      Well acted and suprisingly funny.

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      Critics Reviews

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      Hillel Italie Associated Press Primary Colors, Nichols' second feature with screenwriter and former stand-up comedy partner Elaine May, is mainstream filmmaking at its most accomplished. Aug 8, 2019 Full Review Duane Byrge Hollywood Reporter The performances are splendid, beginning with Travolta's magnificent turn as the big-hearted but hardballing man with 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on his horizon. Mar 21, 2019 Full Review Mike Clark USA Today Primary Colors perfectly captures the spirit of its topic and time to become The Big Chill of politics. Rated: 4/4 Jan 9, 2018 Full Review James Croot Stuff.co.nz By playing the political satire straight, Newell and screenwriter Elaine May drained Primary Colors of all its potential vibrancy, leaving only a bland dramedy in its place. Rated: 2.5/5 Aug 4, 2023 Full Review Wesley Lovell Cinema Sight The film makes a good pseudo-documentary and presents several ideas that should be considered when looking at the presidency of the man everyone feels cheats on his wife, but can still effectively run the country. Rated: 3.5/4 Feb 6, 2023 Full Review Jay Stone Ottawa Citizen Primary Colors has some wonderful comic moments, but it doesn't enlighten us much about the political process. Rated: 3/5 Feb 2, 2023 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

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      Thomas M The best acting performance from Kathy Bates! Rated 5 out of 5 stars 11/25/22 Full Review isla s I thought this was an interesting film, quite character focussed, with some amusing moments, plot twists and the like. It is somewhat thought provoking, in terms of the sort of manipulation and corruption often found in American politics and so on. I felt the characters were quite well portrayed, with some big names playing people I found myself wishing well for. Cast names include John Travolta, Emma Thomson, Billy Bob Thornton and Kathy Bates, among others (including Larry Hagman - J.R.!). It may be just over 20 years old as a film but it still seemed pretty relevant. Its an interesting watch. Not a bad one at all but if your looking for a fast paced and overly dramatic film then this may be a little slow and winding for you but as a depiction of the ever present media circus and the human side of political campaigns, its, as I say, certainly not bad. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member I don't know if it's Travolta's really cheesy southern draw or his Clinton likeness or Bate's late intro and exit to this film that makes me like it so much...but I did. It's on-point political games 90s style. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/12/23 Full Review Audience Member Could afford to be quite a bit shorter and less wandering but this political dramedy packs a punch with it's ensemble cast's near-raucous performances. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/20/23 Full Review Audience Member A solid-75, Primary Colors feels like an exaggerated snapshot of the early 1990s when 24/7 media was at the forefront politics, but the internet was still far on the horizon. The Stantons (John Travolta as Jack and Emma Thompson as Susan) are a fictionalized version of the Clintons during the Democratic Primary leading up to the General Election. However, we view the duo — and their grassroots team — from the perspective of Henry (Adrian Lester), a young black man and grandson of a civil rights activist who's hesitant to join Stanton's campaign. At first, believing he is only be used for his name and for a white southerner to have a black man running his campaign, Henry eventually falls for Stanton's charm and joins the action. One scene, Stanton is engaged in a group hug with illiterate adults and the next he's buttoning his shirt while a female union staffer is sneaking out of his bedroom or he's chucking his cellphone out the car window in a rage. Despite Jack's faults, which Travolta plays really well, Henry sees a leader in the man, even oogling in admiration after Stanton delivers a speech to a fisherman's union in New England. This movie would not be made in 2020 for several reasons, the first being they would never have the same guy, Richard (Billy Bob Thorton), expose himself to a female staffer in broad daylight and tell a black man that "I'm blacker than you are" while remaining an otherwise intelligent and likable character. But what really didn't age well was the fact that besides the rampant cheating, the ethical standard in which the campaign holds itself to when they uncover information that would decimate their opponent. Kathy Bates as Libby is in perfect form as the fast talkin', no-nonsense idealist is the beacon that holds the campaign to this standard and suffers because of it. However, in 2020, that standard is comical. The realpolitik ending was refreshing. Overall, Primary Colors is an enjoyable political drama that scratches that 90s-nostalgia itch we can't seem to quit. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/01/23 Full Review steve d There isn't a lot of insight or any reason to care about a fictional take on Clinton. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review Read all reviews
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      Movie Info

      Synopsis In this adaptation of the best-selling roman a clef about Bill Clinton's 1992 run for the White House, the young and gifted Henry Burton (Adrian Lester) is tapped to oversee the presidential campaign of Gov. Jack Stanton (John Travolta). Burton is pulled into the politician's colorful world and looks on as Stanton -- who has a wandering eye that could be his downfall -- contends with his ambitious wife, Susan, (Emma Thompson) and an outspoken adviser, Richard Jemmons (Billy Bob Thornton).
      Director
      Mike Nichols
      Producer
      Mike Nichols
      Screenwriter
      Joe Klein, Elaine May
      Distributor
      Universal Pictures
      Production Co
      Icarus Films, Universal Pictures, Award Entertainment, Mutual Film Company
      Rating
      R (Strong Language|Sexual References)
      Genre
      Comedy, Drama
      Original Language
      English
      Release Date (Theaters)
      Mar 20, 1998, Wide
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Apr 19, 2016
      Box Office (Gross USA)
      $39.0M
      Runtime
      2h 23m
      Sound Mix
      Dolby SR, DTS, Dolby Stereo, Surround, SDDS, Dolby A, Dolby Digital
      Aspect Ratio
      Scope (2.35:1)
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