Just when you thought you’d seen everything in terms of Thanksgiving holiday movies, along comes the dark comedy “The Oath” (Roadside Attractions), actor Ike Barinholtz’s feature length debut as writer and director. While it may not be on par with Jodie Foster’s “Home for The Holidays”, it does have its charms and a timely message.
“The Oath” opens with the cable news announcement that the POTUS has instituted a conservative “Patriot’s Oath”, a loyalty pledge with perks for signing. The deadline is the day after Thanksgiving, also known, fittingly, as Black Friday. Liberal-oriented Chris (Barinholtz) tells his wife Kai (Tiffany Haddish) that it will the beginning of a purge.
Ten months later, the Monday of Thanksgiving week, the news is full of stories about at protest in New Orleans. This particular Monday is the day Chris’s parents, Eleanor (Nora Dunn) and Hank (Chris Ellis) are set to descend. As if Chris, who hasn’t signed the oath (unlike one of his turncoat college buddies and co-workers, played by an uncredited Max Greenfield), doesn’t already have enough stress in his life, his right-wing brother Pat (Jon Barinholtz) and his equally fanatical girlfriend Abbie (Meredith Hagner) only increase his worries. The one light on the horizon is sister Alice (Carrie Brownstein) and her husband Clark (Jay Duplass), but that is quickly extinguished when Clark takes to bed in the guest room with a stomach virus.
It doesn’t take long before the brothers are at each other’s throats. Things quickly escalate over Thanksgiving dinner. When it is revealed that Kai, who said she wouldn’t sign the oath, actually did the opposite, Chris takes his plate and his drink and finishes eating in the car.
The next morning, Peter (John Cho) and Mason (Billy Magnussen), two men representing the Citizens Protection Unit, an unsanctioned offshoot of the Department of Homeland Security, arrive at the house and want to question Chris. Just when you think nothing worse could happen, it does. A physical altercation between Chris and Mason leads to assault with a fireplace shovel, followed by a drawn gun, a knife, taser incidents and possible kidnapping. And you thought Thanksgiving with your family was unpleasant.
If you’re already stressed out about the holidays, not to mention the declining political situation in the country, you might want to take a pass on “The Oath”. However, while it doesn’t have the oomph of say “Get Out”, “The Oath” does have enough comedically memorable moments to make it worth saving room for, even after you’ve eaten your slice of pumpkin pie.