Tur­key with a side of pol­i­tics CHECK IT OUT

‘THE OATH’ DI­REC­TOR IKE BAR­IN­HOLTZ WROTE A DARK THANKS­GIV­ING DAY COM­EDY IN­SPIRED BY THE 2016 ELEC­TION

Red Eye Chicago - - Movies - By Sadé Car­pen­ter

You know how the old say­ing goes — truth is stranger than fic­tion. The rap­per who once said, “Ge­orge Bush doesn’t care about black peo­ple,” is the same rap­per who last week donned his MAGA hat for a meet­ing with Amer­ica’s cur­rent pres­i­dent. You couldn’t make this mess up if you tried, but ac­tor, co­me­dian and now film di­rec­tor Ike Bar­in­holtz has given it a shot.

In­spired by the 2016 elec­tion and heated po­lit­i­cal de­bates tak­ing place at din­ner ta­bles all over the coun­try, the Chicago na­tive wrote, di­rected and stars in “The Oath,” a dark com­edy that chron­i­cles the fall­out af­ter Amer­i­cans are asked to sign — you guessed it — an oath declar­ing their loy­alty to the pres­i­dent. Bar­in­holtz plays Chris, a lib­eral fa­ther and hus­band to Kai (Tif­fany Had­dish) who finds his Thanks­giv­ing din­ner dis­rupted by ide­o­log­i­cal de­bate and some un­ex­pected crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

“I know it’s a lot to ask peo­ple in 2018 to go to a movie theater, but the two types of movies I en­joy see­ing in a theater and shar­ing that col­lec­tive ex­pe­ri­ence are come­dies and thrillers,” Bar­in­holtz said dur­ing a phone in­ter­view. “I just re­ally hope peo­ple go and see this in a theater and they kind of feed off the en­ergy of the group and they walk out and ev­ery­one looks at each other like, ‘What the hell just hap­pened here?’”

Bar­in­holtz shared his thoughts on pre­serv­ing re­la­tion­ships through po­lit­i­cal tur­moil, the trou­ble with so­cial me­dia echo cham­bers and how Chicago’s im­prov scene in­flu­enced the writ­ing and di­rec­tion of “The Oath.”

Q: When you thought of the idea for “The Oath” it was right af­ter the 2016 elec­tion. At one point in the movie your char­ac­ter says, “It’s not pol­i­tics, it’s cur­rent events.” What other cur­rent events did you have in mind while de­vel­op­ing the film?

A: ’Cause it was so fresh, it was not just the ac­tual elec­tion, but I was so fo­cused on how it was cov­ered and how peo­ple were re­act­ing to the news. It was like you were in a sub­ma­rine and the wa­ter — more elec­tion news — is com­ing in. It was trig­ger­ing so many dif­fer­ent emo­tions.

I re­mem­ber when Trump brought out women who ac­cused Bill Clin­ton of sex­ual im­pro­pri­ety be­fore a de­bate. That was a lit­tle cor­ner­stone where I was like, “Ugh, this is so weird and crazy and it’s just so strange how some re­porters who maybe know this is wrong are kind of blow­ing past it.” I was re­ally just over­dos­ing on out­rage, which I think a lot of the coun­try was do­ing. And that out­rage was re­ally un­der this hur­ri­cane of Trump. I re­ally wanted to take that feel­ing — it was that hor­ri­ble feel­ing of like, those of us who are al­ready di­vided are just get­ting pulled fur­ther apart. I wanted to ex­plore fam­ily re­ally feel­ing that sep­a­ra­tion and that anx­i­ety.

Q: How did your im­prov back­ground af­fect how you wrote the script and di­rected the movie?

A: Chicago-style im­prov is long-form im­prov. It’s not like you get on­stage for two min­utes and tell a joke. It’s more like you go on­stage and you build a scene from noth­ing that goes on for five, six min­utes. It helps you as a sto­ry­teller. It helps you un­der­stand rhythms, beats and tim­ing and that’s some­thing I’ve been ap­ply­ing to my writ­ing for a while. While we’re shoot­ing the movie, the script is very spe­cific and the tone is very spe­cific, but I had all these great ac­tors that had im­prov jobs and it would be a waste to not use them. We tried to shoot the script with scenes as writ­ten once or twice, and then I re­ally wel­comed these ac­tors — es­pe­cially in the scenes where we’re fight­ing — to im­pro­vise and throw in some lines.

Whether it’s the fam­ily fight­ing over the table or fight­ing over a gun, in that chaos the im­prov re­ally gives the whole thing a very live feel. You feel like these peo­ple are say­ing these lines for the first time. And then on top of it all, you just end up get­ting gems. I wish I could take credit for Tif­fany Had­dish say­ing the “trash pussy,” but she im­pro­vised that and it’s like the fun­ni­est line in the movie. I think the take in the movie you see is the sec­ond take be­cause the first time she said it, lit­er­ally ev­ery­one on set started laugh­ing.

Q: You talk about the char­ac­ter Ma­son (Billy Mag­nussen) as an ex­am­ple of men who ex­ude pure toxic mas­culin­ity and how dan­ger­ous that is for our coun­try. Can and should you even try to un­der­stand some­one like that?

A: I think if you can make a de­ter­mi­na­tion whether the per­son you’re deal­ing with, whether it’s a fam­ily mem­ber or a co­worker, if you truly feel like they are sim­ply not act­ing in good faith and no mat­ter what you say to them, no mat­ter

TOPIC STU­DIOS/ROAD­SIDE AT­TRAC­TIONS/TNS

Ike Bar­in­holtz and Tif­fany Had­dish in the film ‘The Oath.’

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