The Oath

First Hit: Compelling and oddly interesting story about what happens to a family when they disagree about a restrictive mandate by the government.

I do think the idea around this film was interesting and one that would spark a host of anger and division in our country. The program, as defined here, was to have everyone in the country sign a loyalty oath to the United States and the current President. The government attempts to make clear that there will be no retaliation to any individual if they don’t sign it, but if you do sign you will be rewarded, including tax breaks. Because this is such an important issue, the President allows people nearly a year to make their decision by giving them until the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, to sign The Oath.

Chris (Ike Barinholtz) and his wife Kai (Tiffany Haddish) are adamantly opposed to such government intrusion in their lives and join campaigns designed to reject The Oath. Time passes, and Chris’ support and engagement continues to grow. He’s always looking at the news and getting upset as government troops tamp down protests against The Oath. Kai, supports her husband’s actions of support, but is less engaged to make a big deal of the oppression.

As Thanksgiving approaches and Mason and Kai are expecting all of Mason’s family to join them, tensions  and anticipation rise. After the parents arrive. Dad is hard of hearing and is technologically challenged, and when Chris asks him to turn down the television, hilarity ensues.

Then his sister Eleanor (Nora Dunn) arrives with her husband (Jay Duplass) and children. The husband is sick and is in bed through the entire film, until the end. Eleanor has many of the same beliefs as Chris. Family animosity arrives when Chris’ brother Pat (Jon Barinholtz) and his girlfriend Abbie (Meredith Hagner) come to the door. The arguments begin when Chris calls Abbie “Katie” because that was the name of Pat’s previous girlfriend.

Both Abbie and Pat have signed the Patriot Oath and are ultra conservative. The characters are made to have the look and feel of conservative Trump surrogates. This causes the dinner conversation to be both hilarious and pointedly filled with anger. All during the erupting fights Kai is attempting to calm Chris down so that they can make it through Thanksgiving. All the while, watching the news, Chris learns people are getting killed during protests against The Oath.

Then on Black Friday, agents from the CPU (a government investigative agency) come to the door to ask Chris why he’s not signed The Oath. Because everyone else in the house has signed the paper, he’s adamant he’s got a right to not sign it and without a warrant order’s them out of the house.

The agents Mason (Billy Magnussen) and Peter (John Cho) are sort of a good cop bad cop team. Peter tries to keep the situation calm while Mason is highly jacked up on conservative right-wing righteousness. When Mason’s aggression really elevates to a high level, all hell breaks loose in the home and the story and film gets very dark.

Ike Barinholtz comes off as acting his role, versus being the role. Starting with the initial scene, the tone of this pressing of this role starts and stays all the way through. He seemed to overact the part. I think another actor would have made this role and film more compelling. Haddish, on the other hand, was excellent. I loved her dance through her maniac husband's issues with the government and his family, with her love for their daughter. Magnussen was excellent as the very right-wing conservative maniac. His intensity created most all the film’s tension. Cho was excellent as the mediator CPU agent. Jon Barinholtz was very good as the conservative brother that supported and protected his brother in the end. Dunn was excellent as the sister who mediates the brothers differences while being a calming voice through the film. Hagner was wonderful as Pat’s conservative girlfriend. Ike Barinholtz is a better writer than actor and his direction of everyone except himself was strong.

Overall: In this highly charged political environment and with a President who likes loyalty, this film is very poignant.