The only problem with The Oath is that it came out too early.
Ike Barinholtz writes, directs, and stars in The Oath (alongside Tiffany Haddish), a film that marks what might be the first great satire of the Trump era. While films like Death of Stalin and BlacKkKlansman certainly feel relevant to our current moment, you get the feeling they were in development before Trump and gained a new urgency as the political tides changed. The Oath, by contrast, was clearly, consciously conceived out of the Trump era news cycle and reflects on the meaning, duties, and absurdities of “resistance” to his agenda. The film is so sharp in its critique of 2018 politics and how they impact family dynamics that it might have been better if the film had either dropped just before midterms or on Thanksgiving.
The Oath’s premise is that the President of the United States (a thinly disguised stand-in for the Trump administration) has instituted a “voluntary” loyalty oath that must be signed by Black Friday. As the deadline creeps closer, unrest mounts. Protestors are being detained. Dissidents are disappearing. And the Civilian Protection Unit (clearly a take on our real-life modern-day Gestapo, ICE) is showing up at citizens’ doors.
Smartly, The Oath doesn’t show us the full extent of this lightly fictionalized creeping dystopia. We see the news through Chris’s (Barenholtz) eyes and stay mostly inside his house as he prepares for the most political event in his calendar year, Thanksgiving dinner.
While the world is falling apart outside, Chris tries to pull it together so that he can serve Thanksgiving Dinner to his right-wing brother Pat, Pat’s Fox News anchor look-alike girlfriend, and his conservative baby boomer parents. The Oath is not just a social satire, it is a holiday comedy of manners. The film tackles an issue that has been much discussed over the last two years: how do you get through the holidays with family members who have terrible political views?
It isn’t much of a spoiler to say that Chris has trouble dealing with his family’s politics. But, in his failures, perhaps we can learn some valuable lessons. While we should aspire to be like Chris in that you stand by what you believe in, but, we should try not to be like Chris in pretty much every other way.
Here are some ways to avoid looking like a self-righteous liberal this Thanksgiving, even if, like Chris, you are a bit of a self-righteous liberal. After all, just because you have the right opinions doesn’t mean you always make the right decisions.