Dylan Baker has long been one of Hollywood's most dependable character actors, but in writer/director Onur Tukel's The Misogynists, the perfect film for this political time in America, Baker is front and center and gives one of the most riveting, outrageous, and absolutely inspired performances of his career as one of two men holed up in a fully stocked luxury hotel room celebrating Donald J. Trump's victory on the night of the 2016 general election.
Baker is Cameron, a recently divorced Trump supporter inexplicably camped out at a $15,000 a month luxury hotel where he's been stuck somewhere between complex grief and primal rage for days. A hard drinker with a penchant for non-stop lines of coke, Cameron seems to direct his rage at everyone and everything from "those fucking bitches" to the "whores" who respond to his $3,000 call for services to be rendered. The rage is even directed at Baxter (Lou Jay Taylor), a co-worker who's nearly as celebratory and doing whatever he can to avoid the trip home to his wife (Christine M. Campbell) who is emotionally distraught over Clinton's unexpected loss. Over the course of the night, the alcohol flows and the lines of coke are snorted as the scene unfolds in ways that are simultaneously more volatile and more darkly humorous.
The fact that The Misogynists is arriving in theaters on Valentine's Day via a partnership between indie distributors Factory 25 and Oscilloscope should tell you that this is no mainstream, namby pamby political affair with one-sided politics and broad stroke caricatures. Truthfully, Tukel is far too gifted a filmmaker to ever let that happen and both Factory 25 and Oscilloscope have long been devoted to the true indie voice.
Indeed, The Misogynists really is the perfect film for this political time in America with a surprisingly balanced approach that essentially rips both sides a new rear end while pretty much letting us all know that we're all part of the problem.
With characters both liberal and conservative practically bathing in their imperfections, The Misogynists is a gleefully badass political film that should succeed in pissing off just about everyone except for those who appreciate cinema with artistic integrity.
Baxter's wife? She's so obnoxiously smug with her political correctness that she's even called out by her far more insightful daughter.
The black woman in the room next door who complains about Cameron's drunken shouts of glee? Even her white husband can't help but point out that her every insult includes mentions of race.
The two "whores?" They're JLO Hustlers wannabes with more white privilege than common sense.
The list goes on.
It's hard to imagine that there's a wide audience for The Misogynists, but it's also hard to imagine that there's not a wide audience for the film that seems to say "Wait. That pissed you off? Hold my beer!"
Holding everything together is Dylan Baker.
Baker provides a master class here in disciplined, wide range yet non-caricaturish acting. Baker keeps going broader and broader yet never turns Cameron into a joke no matter how hard some people try to convince themselves that every Trump supporter is a joke. The Misogynists reminds us that within every supporter, liberal and conservative, is a twisted and occasionally wildly fucked up human being who's inspired to vote according to the life they've lived and the life they haven't lived. Baker captures it all and he captures it all magnificently.
In his feature film debut, Lou Jay Taylor keeps pace with one of this generation's best character actors and wisely plays, or at least tries to play, the film's semi-moral conscience as a guy who can kind of see both sides but who remains optimistic about Trump's potential. Taylor's Baxter is conflicted, obviously at least a little unhappily married yet he still seems to love his wife and kids even as he's struggling to keep up with the harder partying and much angrier Cameron. Taylor's Baxter reminded me more than a little bit of Chris Makepeace from the old Meatballs films, at least if Rudy had grown up to be a coke snortin' Trump supporter.
Among the supporting players, Christine M. Campbell is a gem as Baxter's histrionic suffering wife while both Ivana Milicevic and Trieste Kelly Dunn really shine as the high-priced call girls who seemingly vacillate between oppressed and oppressor.
Zoe White's lensing for the film is simultaneously intoxicating and uncomfortable in capturing a world that is both off-balance yet very real. Estee Braverman's production design deserves credit for taking what is for the most part a one-setting motion picture and creating a compelling, visually arresting environment. The film's score is energized and inspired down the closing notes and one simply can't stress enough that Tukel's script is simply a balls to the walls thing of beauty that has a definite point of view but is basically pissed off at everyone.
The Misogynists opens in New York City at Cinema Village on February 14th and plans are to keep it in theaters throughout primary season.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic