Because maybe you’re sick of seeing the same five John Wayne movies over and over again, pilgrim, the fates have aligned and given you something else you and your dad can watch together. Dane DeHaan and Daniel Radcliffe, those young sports who played a college-age Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsberg, respectively, in last year’s Kill Your Darlings, will play a timewarped Karl Rove and Lee Atwater in the buddy comedy of dear old dad’s dreams.
College Republicans, which actually comes from the Kill Your Darlings team (directed by Darlings‘ John Krokidas) is the “based on true events” story from 1973 of the time when Rove (DeHaan) ran a dirty campaign to become the national College Republicans Chairman under the guidance of his campaign manager, Lee Atwater (Radcliffe). The gruesome twosome take a road trip together to find support for Rove’s candidacy. Zany.
While the film is set up as a lighthearted story about two buddies hanging out in college doin’ GOP stuff, the two subjects portrayed are very much intimidating figures to feature. Sure, in the world written by Wes Jones, they’re just a couple of kids dreaming of political greatness — did you really think anyone from the political clubs at your schools were going to achieve any kind of dominance later in life? But Atwater turned helping his buddy become the College Republican Chairman into a career as a strategist and political consultant for the GOP itself…and then later the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Rove has worked as a successful political consultant and rose through the ranks to become the White House Deputy Chief of Staff during the George W. Bush administration.
No matter your personal feelings toward their politics, you have to admit that the two had to have some cleverness and ability to hustle to get where they did; this film may very well serve as an origin story of sorts foreshadowing their future work on big-time political campaigns — Atwater helping Reagan and Bush #1, and Rove with Dubya.
It’s interesting to see Krokidas pick this film up as his sophomore feature. Kill Your Darlings, of course, was the story of young Allen Ginsberg immersing himself in the world of the Beat movement at Columbia University in the 1940s. It’s there that he meets Lucien Carr, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac, other young beatniks who inspire him and join him during a scandal that rocks the university. With College Republicans, he’s picked up DeHaan and Radcliffe — his Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsberg — to again play college-aged versions of real-life fixtures in American history; although this one probably has less murder?
To be honest, while it sounds like a compelling film, the combination of DeHaan and Radcliffe back playing these types of characters again, combined with the simplistic title made it sound like a 30 Rock joke movie at first glance. Checked though; no Tracy Jordan in sight.