Primary Colors (1998): Mike Nichols’ Adaptation of Popular Novel–Deja Vu?

Mike Nichols’ screen adaptation of the controversial novel, Primary Colors, was a decent film, offering familiar views of the personalities (President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton), but it suffered from a shallow treatment and the timing of its release.

Nichols first choice to lay the part modeled on Clinton, Tom Hanks, would have been better than the one who eventually played him, John Travolta.  But Hanks turned the part down.

Unfortunately the film was released when the American Presidency was in crisis, as a result of Clinton’s sexual liaison with White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

As several critics noted, the movie had the aura of deja vu, or reading yesterday’s newspaper.

And while Elaine May’s scenario made some sharp and poignant observations, it was overshadowed by the far more interesting real-life events surrounding the movie.

As for Nichols’ direction, it was uneven, lively at times, muted at others.

Despite mixed reviews, Primary Colors was a commercial failure.