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The Oath Review - Strong Character Driven Performances Carry this Politically Charged Dark Comedy

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The Oath, from Roadside Attractions, presents the story of one family’s attempt to survive Thanksgiving dinner as the deadline to sign an ordered presidential loyalty oath approaches and violent protests, demonstrations and riots fill the streets.

Directed, written and starring Ike Barinholtz, The Oath also stars Tiffany Haddish, Nora Dunn, Chris Ellis, Carrie Brownstein, Jay Duplass, Jon Barinholtz, Meredith Hagner, John Cho, Billy Magnussen, Max Greenfield, and Priah Ferguson.

The Oath opens with Americans are given one year Chris, played by Ike Barinholtz and Kai, played by Tiffany Haddish, are watching the late night news when the anchor explains the president has ordered all Americans to sign a loyalty oath and designating Black Friday, in one year, as the deadline for compliance.


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The film fast forwards to three days before Thanksgiving and the deadline. Chris and Kai decided early on they wouldn’t sign the oath. As the deadline nears civil unrest ensues, a news junkie, Chris is watching society disintegrate. The last working day before the Thanksgiving holiday, Chris is watching the world erupt when one of his work colleagues, played by Max Greenfield, a fellow protestor, hold out and vigilant “Refuser” explains that he’s signing.

Chris is politically volatile. He is a constitution spouting American citizen who believes in the freedom of the United States. He is loyal to his country and when elected leadership is the antithesis of his beliefs he is the first, middle and last to vocalize it. And now it is Thanksgiving with the family.

Kai has made it clear no oath talk, no political talk, just don’t talk about anything for three days.

Soon the door bell rings and Mom, played by Nora Dunn, and Dad, played by Chris Ellis, arrive and all is well. Then Pat, played by Jon Barinholtz, and his girlfriend, Abbie, played by Meredith Hagner, arrive and of course the two brothers are totally opposites and one con only imagine how many times their parent had to run interference.

And finally Alice, played by Carrie Brownstein and her husband, who has the flu, played by Jay Duplass, who remains sick in bed throughout most of the holiday.

So the first night, they all go to dinner and with the deadline approaching tempers everywhere are flaring with strangers pitted against strangers, and of course as tightly wound as Chris is he can’t let it pass even as Kai explains three days, three days and the holiday is over and everyone will believe it was a success.

Like any junkie Chris, in between basting the turkey, is taking news breaks and watching as the deterioration of society, demonstrations turning violent, rioting resulting in cities burning, and Civil Rights icons being arrested for refusing to sign, and promising not to talk about it during dinner.

Of course we all know where this is heading, a volcanic eruption of criticisms, disapproval and frustrations between brothers capped with the accusations of political cowardice, superiority, revelations of who signed the oath and what it says about the persona and personality.

After dinner, the film moves into he second act and equally shocking.

I have to say, The Oath, if it weren’t so well written, poignant and timely, would be just another holiday filler. The truth is that while it is a political dark dramady, it rings of concern, truth and possibility.

I was surprised at how well it held up. The storyline, obviously birthed out of frustration of the recent political climate speaks to the extreme of the current times. The ensemble cast pulls off the family gathering with authenticity deflecting any challenging conversation with the creamy mashed potatoes.

As The Oath is his first feature film directorial debut, Ike Barinholtz builds a solid, funny, shocking, climatic, highly charged drama that has enough crazy hysteria to make use of Tiffany Haddish's depth of comedic talent. It is well done.


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Strong character driven performances make this politically charged dark comedy work. There were scenes that were so real and genuine that I found myself thinking, “Perfect” as they played out exactly as they are in the two days leading up to the Thanksgiving feast.

The film captures the attention and really plays out the worst fears many expected under the new totalitarian ruling White House and one wants to believe takes it to the extreme.

The Oath is funny in all the right places and honestly down right concerning in others. Ike Barinholtz takes politics and turns it into a freaky hysterical experience with an exclamation point ending.

The Oath opens October 12, 2018. See it.

 

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