Arts movie review

Forget the turkey and pie — ‘The Oath’ will fill you up on laughs and reflection this Thanksgiving season

This timely film that puts a refreshing spin on the classic American political movie through comedy, satire, and the absurd

The Oath
Directed by Ike Barinholtz
Produced by Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen, Andrew C. Robinson, Sean McKittrick, Raymond Mansfield
Starring Ike Barinholtz, Tiffany Haddish, Nora Dunn, Chris Ellis, Jon Barinholtz
Rated R, in select theaters Oct. 12, everywhere Oct. 19

Politics has always been a taboo subject at the dinner table for many American families. Raising the stakes tenfold, Ike Barinholtz, through The Oath, weaves the tale of a family attempting to survive Thanksgiving during a period of controversial turmoil in the White House.

As the writer, producer, and actor of the film, Ike Barinholtz drew inspiration for his film from his own experiences. As he spoke anecdotally during the Q&A session following the premiere of the movie, he detailed the Thanksgiving meal that he had with his own family as well as the conflicts that were uncovered regarding the previous presidential election. Even though his family members all voted for the same candidate, there were still hostility and dissent between opinions, and this was precisely what motivated him to address the issue of political division in his work.

The story follows the internal dynamics of a biracial family. Chris, a liberal and high-strung white male, and his relatively more reasonable wife, Kai, a black woman, co-parent their daughter during a time when the President releases a policy encouraging citizens to pledge a loyalty oath. The two, in utter disbelief, refuse to give in to the President’s agenda and follow the policy closely. As Thanksgiving approaches, Chris becomes increasingly agitated as he discovers that more and more people have signed the oath. As the topic of politics is brought up at the holiday dinner table, tension brews. When two government agents show up unexpectedly and uninvited, the entire family’s world turns upside down.

The element of the movie that especially stood out was the outrageous absurdity that Barinholtz integrated into the movie. The plot was structured both elegantly and skillfully in terms of the dark humor and satire that it provided for the audience. The film paralleled many of the political circumstances in today’s society, and the unrealistically extreme situations made the film all the more entertaining and complex.

The choice of actors and actresses inadvertently served as a channel to accent some of the racial undertones of the story. Kai (Tiffany Haddish) was intentionally cast as a black woman while Peter (John Cho) was cast as an Asian man. The fact that multiple races were represented fortified the theme of inclusion and representation.

In a cinematic sense, there are arguably several drawbacks throughout the piece. Because the entire storyline takes place in Chris’s house, shooting in the same location caused the movie to lack slightly in terms of graphical satisfaction. In addition to that, the plot also felt slightly elementary and not complex enough. Given the topics upon which it touched, the film had much more potential to explore and address political antagonism and race on an even deeper level. However, the color thematics provided intricacy in terms of how it affected the audience’s mood.

Although Barinholtz appears to emphasize the tribalism in our political atmosphere, it is important to realize that he also attempts to highlight the importance of finding unity through unlikely circumstances. He moralizes the significance of seeking not only acceptance but strength in the diversity of opinions. Stressing the uncertainty of life, he encourages his audience to take each day as it comes, to find peace in living in the present.

While the production of this film certainly isn’t flawless, it is very promising in its ability to evoke amusement. So as we approach Thanksgiving season, go out there and get some hearty laughs out of The Oath!