How could a film about a Trump-loving jerk be balanced? This indie drama just might surprise you.
It’s hard not to expect the mother of all anti-Trump diatribes from “The Misogynists.”
The film, which recently screened at the Denver Film Festival, follows two Donald Trump acolytes in the waning hours of Election Day 2016. The title suggests a rigorous take on Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” tape.
Fueling those expectations? Hollywood’s nonstop rage against all things Trump, plus how quickly the film was conceived and produced. You expect the screen to be coated with spittle and bile.
At times it is.
Yet for much of its running time “The Misogynists” offers a modicum of balance, at least as much of it as modern Hollywood is capable of delivering.
Dylan Baker is Cameron, a hard drinking Trump supporter giddy over Trump’s victory. He’s joined in his stocked hotel room by Baxter (Jamie Block), a co-worker who doesn’t share Cameron’s elation.
Baxter’s wife (Christine M. Campbell) is at home bawling over the results. He knows he’ll have to pick up the emotional pieces when he gets home. So Baxter extends the night, much to Cameron’s glee. Together they drink and snort cocaine, all the while basking in Trump’s victory.
That’s more or less the story and the setting. “The Misogynists” could easily have taken place on a stage, not a movie set. It’s dialogue heavy with few cinematic flourishes save a misbehaving TV set.
More on that shortly.
For a good while “The Misogynists” dares to see our divided nation through a startling prism. Baxter’s liberal wife is so smug she’s rightly chastised by her young daughter. A black woman in the neighboring unit, understandably aghast at the commotion Cameron is making, gets an earful from her white husband for her racist epithets.
Wait … flawed liberal and conservative characters? You’ve got our attention.
Enter a pair of conflicted hookers who add a feminist sting to the debate. Are they empowered women soaking suckers like Cameron of their cash? Or are they victims of the patriarchy as much as the defeated Hillary Clinton?
“The Misogynists” offers no easy answers. It’s still a brisk viewing with one full-throttled performance. Baker, an excellent character actor, excels at playing button-downed types. It’s in his thespian DNA. Even his turn as a pedophile in 1998’s “Happiness” saw him defusing his character’s soulless acts.
Here he’s gloriously unhinged, and his unchecked id supercharges the narrative. The best part? He’s given a back story that helps explain, at least partially, his antics.Wait ... flawed liberal and conservative characters? You've got our attention.Click To Tweet
Writer/director Onur Tukel (“Catfight”) keeps everything moving despite the cramped quarters. Sure, some of the dialogue teeters on talking point. It’s still engaging even when Tukel injects one too many campaign snippets into the conversations.
The satirical indie isn’t quite sure where to go in the third act. So it offers a meltdown of sorts and a hokey plot device. From there the film embraces its original purpose, tying back to the clunky TV screen metaphor.
You see, the images on screen are running backward. Is that a commentary on the direction the country is heading in?
No matter. It’s bracing to see a filmmaker refusing to live down to the audience’s expectations. “The Misogynists” may not be great art, but its cynicism over both Red and Blue State America is wholly refreshing.
HiT or Miss: Some may steer clear of any movie reliving Election Day 2016. Everyone else will cheer how “The Misogynists” subverts the traditional narrative in the Age of Trump.