Primary Colors

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"What went down on the way to the top."
  • R
  • 1998
  • 2 hr 23 min
  • 6.7  (30,045)
  • 70

Primary Colors is a political dramedy from 1998, directed by Mike Nichols and starring John Travolta, Emma Thompson, and Kathy Bates. The film is loosely based on the novel of the same name by Anonymous, which is rumored to have been written by journalist Joe Klein about Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. The movie follows the charismatic Southern governor, Jack Stanton (John Travolta), as he navigates the rough waters of the Democratic primaries with the help of his wife Susan (Emma Thompson) and their team of loyal advisors. However, Stanton's womanizing ways and general lack of moral compass threaten to derail his campaign and destroy his marriage.

The film opens with Stanton's campaign team hiring a young idealistic strategist, Henry Burton (Adrian Lester), who is skeptical of the governor's motives but ultimately becomes a devoted member of the campaign. As Burton becomes more involved with the Stantons, he witnesses firsthand the dirty politics and backroom deals necessary to win a presidential campaign.

Stanton's campaign also attracts the attention of the media, including intrepid reporter Richard Jemmons (Billy Bob Thornton) and his straight-talking editor, Howard Ferguson (Paul Guilfoyle). Jemmons is particularly interested in the rumors surrounding Stanton's sexual proclivities and begins digging into his past.

The film also introduces us to some of the more colorful members of Stanton's team, including political operative Libby Holden (Kathy Bates), who is fiercely loyal to the governor but not afraid to get her hands dirty, and strategists Daisy Green (Maura Tierney) and Richard "Dickie" Lyle (Larry Hagman), who are always on the lookout for ways to get Stanton ahead in the polls.

As the campaign heats up and the primaries draw near, Stanton's questionable actions begin to catch up with him. Henry becomes disillusioned with the campaign and starts to doubt whether he can continue working for someone he doesn't respect. Meanwhile, Susan struggles to maintain her composure in the face of her husband's infidelities and political maneuvering.

Throughout the film, the characters confront the realities of contemporary American politics, including the media's obsession with scandal, the influence of money on elections, and the blurred lines between personal and political lives.

The standout performance in the film is John Travolta's portrayal of Jack Stanton. He perfectly captures the politician's charm and charisma, while also conveying his flaws and weaknesses. Emma Thompson is also excellent as Susan Stanton, bringing both strength and vulnerability to the role.

Kathy Bates is a scene-stealer as Libby Holden, delivering some of the film's most memorable moments with her tough talk and sharp wit. Billy Bob Thornton is also great as Richard Jemmons, playing the reporter with just the right amount of sleaze and cynicism.

Overall, Primary Colors is an entertaining and insightful look into the world of American politics. While the film is a work of fiction, it offers a compelling glimpse into the machinations of political campaigns and the personal toll they can take on those involved. With its talented cast and sharp writing, Primary Colors is definitely worth a watch.

Primary Colors is a 1998 comedy with a runtime of 2 hours and 23 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.7 and a MetaScore of 70.

Primary Colors
Where to Watch Primary Colors
Primary Colors is available to watch, stream, download and buy on demand at Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Primary Colors for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    2 hr 23 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.7  (30,045)
  • Metascore