Actors turning to direct always has mixed results. Ike Barinholtz has made that transition with his feature film debut, The Oath (2018). His comedic styling comes in strong in his new film, which takes a satirical look at the political landscape. The film takes some dark turns, but it earns lots of laughs – especially once it gets going.
The Oath was a comedy that made you think.
Chris (Ike Barinholtz) and his wife Kai (Tiffany Haddish) are opposed to a new policy the government has introduced, asking American citizens to take a patriotic oath. It is optional for citizens to sign, but the split it puts on the public is seen almost instantly. The deadline to sign is Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – and the political rumblings make for an uncomfortable family holiday.
Barinholtz definitely wrote this film with the division facing American citizens today in mind. The film features many arguments that one may have witnessed online, the news, or in their day to day lives…each of which portrays people firmly taking a stance and berating anyone who disagrees. While it is obvious where Chris falls in his political standings, the film does have people that represent multiple perspectives. Much of the humor consists of people shouting and pointing out flaws in thinking in an increasingly aggressive way.
In many ways, the film is a dark family holiday comedy…a new Thanksgiving film in a genre that’s relatively barren. Family always fights when they suddenly find themselves crammed together for a short time. One moment can be peaceful, but then suddenly someone calls the brother’s new girlfriend the wrong name and it’s World War III all over again. However, this film seems to be a reminder that no matter how much we fight and disagree, there is always hope of returning to a state where that’s no longer the case. This film attempts to posit that if things in our political landscape return to a more familiar time, so will the peace return to our country.
It’s hard to discuss why this film was so funny without spoiling many of the scenes, but the cast Barinholtz put together works really well. Haddish gets to be the rational comedy, which is against the type she usually is cast in. The Oath is definitely worth your time if you don’t mind a lot of cursing and dark humor. Barinholtz’s film earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.