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‘Primary Colors’ Imitates Real Life

March 21, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Who needs the evening news when ``Primary Colors″ is playing at the local theater? In a town where politics is entertainment, audiences flocked to the story of sex, scandal and a man who would be president.

As the film based on President Clinton’s 1992 campaign opened nationwide Friday, the allegations of Paula Jones ... and Monica Lewinsky ... and Kathleen Willey weren’t far from many movie-goers’ minds.

Some predicted the president’s real-life troubles will help bring audiences to the film.

But many who saw it Friday at Washington’s Uptown Theater _ decked out in red, white and blue bunting for the occasion _ said John Travolta’s portrayal of the Clintonesque Jack Stanton was likely to help Clinton more than hurt him.

``He’s a human being. We’re all human beings,″ said Marc Kaplowitz, who was visiting from New York City.

``One message was that even though flawed, he’s better than the rest,″ said Bob Cobb of Washington.

Only in Washington would viewers be preoccupied by such questions, said Ben Jones, the actor who once ran against Newt Gingrich for Congress and has a small part in ``Primary Colors.″

Jones saw the premiere in Los Angeles before viewing the movie in Washington with an audience of political pundits and then inviting 100 friends.

In Los Angeles, he said, audiences noticed costumes and smart direction. In Washington, they think political fallout.

What’s Jones’ analysis? The movie isn’t ``totally unsympathetic″ to the Clinton-like character, he said, adding that nothing in the film will damage Clinton as much as his own behavior does.

``The really important questions are, do the ends justify the means? At what point do we compromise our ideals for our agenda?″ he said.

President Clinton was not among the early viewers, and he probably won’t have time to catch the film before departing for Africa Sunday, a spokesman said.

But audiences at the Uptown, one of Washington’s nicest theaters, did include a White House staffer who bought 17 tickets for co-workers, said manager Tom Wittington.

Lines formed early to see presidential candidate Stanton, the governor of a small Southern state, make his way through allegations of womanizing to eventually claim the White House.

``It’s life imitating art imitating life,″ Kaplowitz said. It was a little too real for some.

Still, the crowds couldn’t compete with the turnout for science fiction thrillers that often play there, Wittington said. An older crowd, they probably won’t buy as much popcorn either, he lamented.

The story was too real for some.

``I feel like crying right now,″ Mimo Riley of Washington, a Clinton supporter, said as she left the theater. ``It’s difficult. It’s what we’re living through right now.″

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