Alan Alda starred in and wrote the script for this observant take on the rise of a liberal senator loosely based on the career of Ted Kennedy. While lacking the bite and wealth of detail of The Candidate (1972), it casts a similarly jaundiced eye on the world of politics, although it deals with life in Washington rather than on the campaign trail. Alda plays a character not too far from his good guy persona, and in the course of the politician's everyday, almost banal transactions, makes one see just how omnipresent and alluring are the temptations that spring up in the path of even the most well-intentioned person of power. When he slips into an affair with a coltish labor lawyer played by the young Meryl Streep, their scenes have a sense of playful eroticism rather than an air of guilt-ridden adultery, as Alda temporarily suspends judgment. But it's the larger perks of power and influence that the title addresses, and it is these which will test his mettle. While the shell games and horse-trading of politics are sharply noted, the motivations of Alda's character remain somewhat elusive, and the film's best and most revealing scene deals not with politics per se, but with Alda's marriage to a wife, played by Barbara Harris, who hates his profession. Among a stellar cast, Harris is by far the best as a woman with penetrating vision, but Streep, Rip Torn, and Melvyn Douglas, an actor who knew politics from the inside, are also superb.
by Michael Costello review