“The Congressman” tracks the fall from grace of fictitious Maine politico Charlie Winship (Treat Williams), a Vietnam vet with a drinking problem and very few damns left to give. Unfazed by a viral video of him putting his feet up during the Pledge of Allegiance on the House floor and mudslingers questioning his patriotism, Winship carries out a scheduled visit to Catatonk Island 20 miles off the Maine shore.
Locked in a turf war with commercial fishermen whose overfishing threatens the ecosystem and local livelihoods, Catatonk’s lobstermen count on Winship’s intervention to preserve their way of life. This sort of narrative usually focuses on the denizens — take “Seducing Doctor Lewis” or “Waking Ned Devine” for instance. But taken from the savior's vantage point, viewers don't experience the excitement of seeing unlikely heroes rallying, rising to the occasion with ingenuity, hope or purpose. Too bad filmmaker Robert J. Mrazek, a former legislator himself, chooses to stick with what he knows.
Earnest and well-meaning, “The Congressman” devolves into predictable schmaltz as Winship finds a kindred spirit in weary divorcée Rae (Elizabeth Marvel). Ultimately, it isn’t Winship who grows from this ordeal but his accompanying chief of staff, the snobbish whippersnapper Jared Barnes (Ryan Merriman). Though sparklingly lush Maine locales compensate for the film’s TV-movie aesthetics, the story never rises above small-screen niceties.
MPAA rating: R for some language and brief sexual material
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Sundance Sunset Cinemas, Los Angeles; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica