As the mid-term elections approach, Ike Barinholtz’s sharp dark comedy, The Oath provides a much-needed moment of pause. A chance to reflect on the various ways politics and our obsession with breaking news has divided families.
When the government institutes The Patriot’s Oath, in which citizens are encouraged to pledge loyalty to the President, Chris (Ike Barinholtz) and his wife Kai (Tiffany Haddish) are determined not to sign it. As the Black Friday deadline approaches, tensions in the country run high as protestors take to the streets amid stories of people who refuse to sign the document disappearing.
Chris and Kai have their own tensions to deal with, as they prepare to host Chris’ family over the Thanksgiving weekend. It does not take long for Chris to clash with his conservative leaning brother Pat (Jon Barinholtz) and his new girlfriend Abby (Meredith Hagner) over politics, political correctness, and which news sources can be trusted. Though his parents (Nora Dunn, Chris Ellis) would prefer a conflict free weekend, and his sister Alice (Carrie Brownstein) tries to quell tempers while tending to her ailing husband (Jay Duplass), Chris refuses to stay silent while observing the seemingly never-ending news alerts of abuse of power.
Things get extremely worrying for Chris and his family when two government agents (John Cho and Billy Magnussen) show up determined to speak with Chris despite not having a warrant.
Finding humour in even some of the darkest moments, The Oath is a hilarious exploration of the self-centred hypocrisy that has allowed for the erosion of the political landscape. Ike Barinholtz does a great job of showing how the self-righteousness of liberals is as equally annoying and damaging as the short-sightedness of self-serving conservatives.
The film also has some important things to say about the way social media and 24-hour news channels have made many numb to the endless “breaking news” stories. It has gotten to the point where people no longer wait for details before voicing their opinions on the latest headlines from their favourite outlets. Darkly funny and at times uncomfortable, depending on one’s political views, The Oath is one of the year’s comedic gems.