An engaging if ungainly hybrid of “The Graduate” and “House of Cards,” the political potboiler “Affairs of State” benefits greatly from being both timely and, for this day and age, uncommon. In an era when so many indies are either genre exercises or quirky dramedies, a well-acted, ripped-from-the-headlines melodrama is a novelty.
Written by Tom Cudworth and directed by Eric Bross (who previously collaborated on Adrien Brody’s mid-’90s breakout vehicle “Ten Benny”), “Affairs of State” stars David Corenswet as Michael Lawson, an ambitious but cash-strapped politico who leverages some valuable blackmail material into a job working for Sen. John Baines (David James Elliott), a conservative with eyes on the White House.
Michael’s rising influence puts him in the path of Baines’ equally ruthless top aide (Adrian Grenier), as well as his own leftist activist roommate (Thora Birch). Complicating matters further, Michael advances his career by having an affair with Baines’ wife (Mimi Rogers), but then unexpectedly falls for their daughter (Grace Victoria Cox).
Bross and Cudworth set “Affairs of State” in a fictionalized version of American politics, with made-up party names but the same sense of divisiveness and power-hungry hypocrisy as the world of today.
Nothing here is revelatory — at least not to anyone who reads the op-ed pages or has watched “The Good Wife.” But the movie is refreshingly smart about how real feelings can get in the way of callous calculation.
‘Affairs of State’
Rated: R, for strong sexual content, language, some violence and brief drug use
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills