Fake news, alternative facts, government mandates, lying leaders, isn’t just America in 2018, but it’s also a country that is ever so divided in a dystopian future in The Oath. Starring, written and directed by Ike Barinholtz (MADtv, Blockers) the film is a dark comedy that explores the drama when a family with opposing political views has to live under one roof during the week of Thanksgiving.
Like a Thanksgiving dinner, Barinholtz’s film gives us a lot to digest in this one. The film’s website’s synopsis:
A controversial White House policy turns family member against family member in THE OATH, a savagely funny dark comedy about surviving life and Thanksgiving in the age of political tribalism. When Chris (Ike Barinholtz), a high-strung 24-hour progressive news junkie, and his more levelheaded wife Kai (Tiffany Haddish) learn that citizens are being asked to sign a loyalty oath to the President, their reaction is disbelief, followed by idealistic refusal. But as the Thanksgiving deadline to sign approaches, the combination of sparring relatives, Chris’s own agitation and the unexpected arrival of two government agents (John Cho and Billy Magnussen) sends an already tense holiday dinner gathering completely off the rails. As timely as it is outrageous, THE OATH is a gleefully wicked reinvention of the traditional holiday comedy for our divisive political times.
This is Barinholtz’s directorial debut, so he has some room to grow as a filmmaker. Writing the leads as an interracial couple and not making any awkward or cliche jokes out of it was an admirable choice for him. The first act of the movie is the slowest part of the film and it takes some time for it to find its footing. The pacing could’ve been better, and some of the humor between Barinholtz and Haddish isn’t funny early on. Both do a great job of their deliveries, but the dialogue isn’t great. Barinholtz brings his traits of being expressive, and Haddish brings her bluntness, which makes their characters dynamic. The movie has a weird filter over it, which I can only assume was to give it a classic feel. Stylistically, there are huge bold black block letters that appear on the screen to separate each day from the film that comes off out of place. The huge letters and whatever filter was used were not an ideal pairing and looked amateurish. The dialogue between Chris and Kia gets better around the second act, once the rest of the family joins them for the holiday. Their interactions with the rest of the family is what helps the film find itself.
Chris, who is extremely liberal and anti-Oath, bashes the rest of his family for signing the Oath. There’s a running joke between him and his brother Pat’s (Jon Barinholtz) new girlfriend Abbie (Meredith Hagner), and it’s hilarious and never gets tiring. When the family goes out for dinner on the eve of the holiday, there’s an argument at a table in the distance, and seeing the way the background and minor characters are having conflict over the Oath makes the established universe easier to submerge into. The movie sets up a universe where people are tense and stressed out just patiently waiting for a reason to go-off on someone. Once the government agents Mason and Peter (Billy Magnussen and John Cho) arrive into the fold, that’s when things pick all the way up. Mason and Chris are at odds, and the banter between the two is the highlight of the film.
This holiday season, I would recommend watching this one with your family. This movie had someone that everyone could identify with and it also hits close to home. Films such as The Oath and The Purge are interesting films because they seem so far out of the realm of possibility, but like the drama at a family dinner in 2018 America they don’t seem that bizarre.
[a si a si]
[All Mames Wey]
The Oath is currently in select theaters in the United States.