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Slick, mostly satisfying look at an ambitious politician 3.5 Stars

At the end of the turbulently political 1970s came Jerry Schatzberg’s The Seduction of Joe Tynan, an effective dramedy which examines with some depth (but not nearly enough) the lure of political power that can both enhance and disrupt a person’s life.

The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979)
Released: 17 Aug 1979
Rated: R
Runtime: 108 min
Director: Jerry Schatzberg
Genre: Drama
Cast: Alan Alda, Barbara Harris, Meryl Streep
Writer(s): Alan Alda
Plot: Respected liberal Senator Joe Tynan is asked to lead the opposition to a Supreme Court appointment. It means losing an old friend and fudging principles to make the necessary deals, as well as further straining his already part-time
IMDB rating: 6.1
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: R
Run Time: 1Hr. 47 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 12/14/2021
MSRP: $24.95

The Production: 3.5/5

At the end of the turbulently political 1970s came Jerry Schatzberg’s The Seduction of Joe Tynan, an effective dramedy which examines with some depth (but not nearly enough) the lure of political power and purpose that can both enhance and disrupt a person’s life. With a star-laden cast of expert actors, the film is lighter in tone than the political films of the previous decade like The Best Man and Advise and Consent, and one might wish it more biting and intense, but what’s here is undeniably entertaining.

Liberal New York senator Joe Tynan (Alan Alda) is on the upward trajectory in the Democratic Party, so when old-timer Senator Birney (Melvyn Douglas) asks him not to throw his political strength against a potential Supreme Court nominee Edward Anderson (Maurice Copeland) that he needs to see confirmed, Tynan gives a tentative promise to his old friend. Louisiana civil rights activist Karen Traynor (Meryl Streep), however, comes to Tynan with plenty of evidence that Anderson is a racist who doesn’t deserve consideration, and as the pair begin to work together to uncover even more damning evidence against Anderson, they launch an affair that takes them both by surprise. Tynan’s wife Ellie (Barbara Harris) is already struggling to keep their home together with Joe’s frequent absences driving a wedge between them and also his children (Blanche Baker, Adam Ross). And with Joe’s growing popularity and even more demands on his time as party endorsements loom, Joe finds himself torn in many directions.

Having written scripts for his popular television series M*A*S*H, Alan Alda now pens his first feature screenplay. He’s written himself a wonderful part full of both humor and drama and has also done a fine job with the political side of his storytelling as he works the chambers of Congress, cocktail parties, and climactically the convention growing ever more powerful and loving every minute of it. The domestic side of Tynan’s life, however, is more sketchily and less satisfactorily drawn with his wife unsure about remaining in politics (and realizing something is off in their marriage) and an uncommunicative teenage daughter in the throes of adolescent rebellion. The “seduction” in the film’s title is much less about romantic seduction (after all, he’s the one who puts the moves on Karen and does all the arranging to make sure they can share private planes and hotel rooms away from prying eyes) and much more about the allure of power and prestige that a successful politician can find himself welding while at the same time being blinded by ambition to the inevitable erosion of honesty. In showing this, director Jerry Schatzberg uses close-ups a bit too much (making the film sometimes resemble a TV-movie rather than a feature film, not aided by the rather flippant music score by Bill Conti). In fairness, he does convey the chaotic climactic convention with all its attendant force and command and uses a montage mid-film that conveys Joe’s rising influence after his successful takedown of the racist Supreme Court nominee.

Alan Alda has the screen charisma to pull off this Kennedy-lite political figure bringing both his sense of humor and his sense of gravitas to the scenes when needed. 1979 was a banner year for Meryl Streep with three well-received performances in a single year: in Woody Allen’s Manhattan, in Robert Benton’s Kramer Vs. Kramer, and in this film. In fact, the raft of critics’ prizes she won from the New York and Los Angeles Film Critics Circles and the National Board of Review noted her work in all three films (though she’d eventually win the Oscar for Kramer). Barbara Harris’ troubled Ellie Tynan is a solid performance even though her role has been underwritten, and Alda leaves something of a “The Lady or the Tiger” ending between the two of them (ironically, that story formed the basis of one-third of the Broadway musical she and Alda had starred in on Broadway The Apple Tree, a show that brought Alda a Tony nomination and Harris the award itself for Best Actress). Melvyn Douglas offers a canny performance as a wily senator at the end of the line, and Rip Torn as rambunctious Senator Kittner chews the scenery in a couple of memorable scenes (most notably, in a gumbo-eating faceoff with Tynan). Carrie Nye walks away with the movie in her one scene as Kittner’s seen-it-all wife while Charles Kimbrough is most appealing as Tynan’s dedicated and equally ambitious executive assistant. Blanche Baker has the teenage angst just right as Tynan’s defiant daughter Janet.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is outstanding, and color saturation levels are near perfection as the film looks like it might have been filmed yesterday. There are no age-related scratches, dust, or debris to spoil the pristine picture quality. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono soundtrack is very typical of this era of filmmaking. The mix offers very well-recorded dialogue combined with Bill Conti’s light-hearted score and the expected sound effects in a pleasing package. There are no examples of hiss, crackle, flutter, or pops to mar the aural experience.

Special Features: 2.5/5

Audio Commentary: film historian Bryan Reesman offers another very chatty and informative track (he also provided the commentary for The Four Seasons).

Radio Spots (057)

Theatrical Trailer (2:11, HD)

Kino Trailers: The Mephisto Waltz, The Four Seasons, Still of the Night, Silkwood, A Thousand Clowns, Puzzle of a Downfall Child.

Overall: 3.5/5

Jerry Schatzberg’s The Seduction of Joe Tynan is an entertaining if perhaps too slick examination of the professional life of an ambitious politician and the effect it has on his splintering family. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray release presents the film with sterling video and audio quality which fans of the stars or the genre will certainly appreciate.

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Published by

Matt Hough


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