Mays Gilliam, a Washington D.C. neighborhood Alderman, is about to be redlined out of his job. But after the untimely death of the party frontrunner, Gilliam is plucked from obscurity, and thrust into the limelight as his party's nominee--for President of the United States. The players in Gilliam's life include: Mitch Gilliam, his unsophisticated older brother who becomes his running mate; Kim, his ex-girlfriend who had once dumped him, but who now has a sudden change of heart as she sees a chance at becoming First Lady; Martin Geller, his campaign manager; Lisa Clark, the woman who truly believes in Gilliam; and Debra Lassiter, the woman who doesn't have faith in his candidacy, and is serving as his reluctant advisor.
Chris Rock, a truth-teller and provocateur in his stand-up act, shows unexpected and disappointing timidity in this would-be satire of racial attitudes and electoral politics. The comedian, co-writer of the screenplay, plays Mays Gilliam, a Washington alderman drafted by unscrupulous politicos to be the designated loser in a presidential campaign. The story and the jokes are all over the map, as the picture flounders between subverting stereotypes and using them for easy comic effect. The best moments come when Mr. Rock uses Gilliam's speeches to deliver some of his own stand-up, and when Bernie Mac, playing Mays's brother and running mate, adds his sly, volatile charisma to the lumpy, disappointing mix. — A. O. Scott
2003-03-28 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of Head of State