The Oath movie review: Homeland for the holidays

Ike Barinholtz has been a highlight of comedies like Neighbors, Snatched and Blockers. Now he has written and directed himself a starring vehicle that is a provocative political satire: The Oath.

A loyalty oath sounds like something Donald Trump would ask citizens to sign, but it’s actually a good stand-in for any polarizing political issue. They say there’s no penalty for not signing it, but there are bonuses if you do sign it like tax benefits.

Using a fictitious loyalty oath, Barinholtz explores the pressures society puts on people to conform. Some sign it because it’s easier than fighting. Some sign reluctantly, some under pressure.

Chris (Barinholtz) is strongly opposed to the oath. His wife Kai (Tiffany Haddish) agrees but wants him to make nice with the family over Thanksgiving week.

Families have been saying since the 2016 election that we should not allow politics to come between loved ones. This movie calls them out, because family members can’t help themselves anyway.

Plus, if your family doesn’t respect your beliefs, what good is their love? They’ll vote to oppress you but hey, don’t let politics come between family.

Chris is righteous but he’s also obsessive with constant news coverage which is still toxic. The news will still be there after dinner, and not every update requires your immediate attention.

He will express a lot of things people are feeling right now, and confront his conservative brother Pat (Jon Barinholtz) and Pat’s girlfriend Abbie (Meredith Hagner), but Chris can be civil with his sister Alice (Carrie Brownstein). Alice doesn’t present her opposition in his face.

Kai is really the voice of reason until she unleashes the full Haddish for dramatic purposes. After that she matches the escalation of the situation.

Barinholtz paints an accurate portrait of how this “harmless” proposal empowers anger and violence. And it’s all white guys getting angry at people who won’t sign, or just yelling at brown people, whether they’ve signed or not, just because they feel emboldened.

These issues may be fake but the conversation that surrounds them is the same as we’ve seen for the past three years. That is to say the real issue is not a candidate or a policy, although those are important. However, there’s got to be a better way to get things done on those fronts.

The only reference that didn’t remain relevant is Chris talking about a Vine video he and a friend made. Unless he’s referring to an event over two years old when Vine still existed.

Dysfunctional families have been fertile ground for holiday comedies. My favorite is Home for the Holidays because it’s honest and doesn’t excuse or justify the dysfunction.

The Oath covers the same sort of dysfunctional disrespect between family members with the added volatility of politics. This conversation needs to happen, whether it makes people uncomfortable or not, probably more so because it does.

The Oath is in theaters Friday, October 12.

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