As such, Layton comes across as he was in life — much liked and, even for some, much loved. Even when a gay-hating constituent tosses a cup of hot coffee at his face, Layton is nonplussed.
Instead of going home and changing his shirt and tie, Layton goes ahead with a date with his future wife, Olivia Chow (played with great skill by Sook-Yin Lee). Chow’s mother tells her daughter that Layton is crazy.
In Jack, Layton isn’t crazy — but it is made clear that he regularly drove his staff and family crazy. His relentless positivism, it turns out, was no act. When things got bad (and they did often before May 2011), Layton would simply pick up his guitar and start singing. And thereby drive his staff and family crazy.
Among those driven batty by Layton’s unflagging optimism were his cadre of loyalists. So, we see actors portraying political legends like Brian Topp (with more hair), Brad Lavigne (with more height), as well as Karl Belanger and Anne McGrath (who has far more real-life charm than portrayed in the film), groaning about Layton’s refusal to ever accept life’s glass might be half empty.
Utterly missing from Jack is a hint, much less an explanation, for Layton’s extraordinary win in 2011.
Was it his shrewd use of his cane and his health issues, a la Lucien Bouchard? Was it his sunny personality, which contrasted so favourably to the glum Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff? His unflappable determination?
The viewer is left with no answers. An explanation might have made Jack better. And it might have assisted the NDP, too, now under Thomas Mulcair, looking like a shadow of what it was under Layton.
That aside, Jack is an enjoyable film about a pretty extraordinary fellow. One who, like Moses, led his followers to the political promised land, but who never got the chance to go there with them.
It’s on TV Sunday night, and it’s worth your time. And, if nothing else, it’ll give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Charles Adler on the CBC!