Review: ‘Devotion’ (2022), starring Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell

November 22, 2022

by Carla Hay

Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, Thomas Sadoski, Nick Hargrove, Daren Kagasoff, Joe Jonas and Spencer Neville in “Devotion” (Photo by Eli Ade/Columbia Pictures)

“Devotion” (2022)

Directed by J.D. Dillard

Some French with no subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1950 and 1951, in the United States, Italy, France, North Korea, and China, the dramatic film “Devotion” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Based on a true story, Jesse Brown becomes the first African American pilot in the U.S. Navy, and he befriends fellow pilot Tom Hudner, but Jesse experiences racism and self-doubt as obstacles to his success.

Culture Audience: “Devotion” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in watching war movies that have themes of friendship and dealing with challenges, told in a relatively safe and formulaic style of filmmaking.

Christina Jackson and Jonathan Majors in “Devotion” (Photo by Eli Ade/Columbia Pictures)

“Devotion” is sometimes slow-moving and stodgy, but this Korean War drama has its heart in the right place in paying tribute to U.S. Navy pilot Jesse Brown. The cast members give credible performances. The last third of the movie is better than the rest.

At 138 minutes, “Devotion” should have been a shorter movie, because some of the scenes drag on a little longer than they should and don’t do much to move the story along in a more engaging way. However, the crux of the story is meaningful, especially if viewers want to learn more about real-life people who heroically served in the Korean War.

Directed by J.D. Dillard, “Devotion” had its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. The movie is based on Adam Makos’ non-fiction 2014 book “Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice.” Jake Crane and Jonathan A.H. Stewart co-wrote the “Devotion” adapted screenplay.

The movie opens in 1950, when U.S. Navy lieutenant Tom Hudner (played by Glen Powell) is seen leaving Quonset Point Air National Guard Base in Kingstown, Rhode Island, to go to the Naval Air Station in Oceana, Maryland. Tom is going there to be a part of the U.S. Navy’s Fighting Squadron 32, also known as VF-32. Shortly after arriving there. Tom is seen in a locker room, where he meets Anson “Jesse” Brown (played by Jonathan Majors), one of the other VF-32 members who will be going through aviator training with Tom. Their first conversation together shows their immediate rapport.

Jesse asks Tom, who has arrived from Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, if he got to fly in “the big show.” Tom replies, “I did not.” Jesse says, “Then you’ll fit right in.” Tom then meets Marty Goode (played by Joe Jonas), another VF-32 member. Other members of the squad who gets some screen time are executive officer Richard “Dick” Cevoli (played by Thomas Sadoski), Carol Mohring (played by Nick Hargrove), Bill Koenig (played by Daren Kagasoff) and Bo Lavery (played by Spencer Neville). Unfortunately, all of these VF-32 pilot characters, except for Jesse and Tom, are very generic.

Near the beginning of the movie, viewers find out a little bit about Tom’s background from conversations that he has with Jesse. World War II ended just one month before Tom graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. Originally from Massachusetts, Tom says his career path wasn’t what his family expected: “I was supposed to take over my old man’s grocery stores,” Tom tells Jesse. Tom says he opted for “adventure” instead.

As for Jesse, he is originally from Mississippi, and he doesn’t reveal too much about his background to anyone. He has his guard up because he’s the only African American in the squad. And he will eventually become the first African American to become a pilot for the U.S. Navy. Jesse is happily married to Daisy Brown (played by Christina Jackson), and they are devoted and loving parents to their 3-year-old daughter Pam.

In April 1950, the VF-32 squad spends time training on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Leyte. Tom excels (he’s the type of trainee who gets perfect test scores) and quickly ascends to the top of the class. Jesse passes the tests too, but Tom is considered the squad’s “star,” who is very straight-laced and “by the book.” Tom and Jesse have a friendly rivalry with each other that occasionally leads to some tense and bitter moments later in the film when their loyalty to each other is tested.

As expected, “Devotion” shows some of the racism that Jesse had to deal with as one of the few African Americans at the time who got to serve in the U.S. Navy alongside (not separately from) his white peers. “Devotion” predictably has a racist bully who’s part of the VF-32 squad. His name is Peters (played by Thad Luckinbill), who openly says racist insults about Jesse, usually in a pathetic attempt to get Jesse to lose his temper. You can almost do a countdown to when Peters and Jesse will get into a physical brawl that Peters instigates.

Publicly, Jesse is confident and avoids trying to define his achievements and skills in terms of his race. For example, at a press event where the VF-32 squad answers questions from journalists, a racially condescending reporter makes a comment to executive officer Cevoli about Jesse, by asking if “your boy does a juggling act too.” While Jesse poses for photos with the other members of the squad, the a reporters tries to bait Jesse into talking about more about his race instead of Jesse’s accomplishments and skills. Jesse doesn’t take the bait.

Privately, Jesse battles with deep insecurities. In multiple scenes in the movie, he is shown by himself, looking in the mirror and crying and/or saying racial insults to himself out loud. It could be interpreted as Jesse using reverse psychology on himself to emotionally prepare himself for any racism he might experience. But mostly, it just looks like Jesse is fighting low self-esteem in the best way that he knows how.

“Devotion” tries to delve into the sense of isolation that Jesse must have felt where he couldn’t really hang out with the lower-ranked African Americans in the U.S. Navy (such as the workers who did jobs in maintenance or in the kitchen), but he wasn’t fully accepted by most of his white peers either, except for Tom. The movie’s handling of this issue doesn’t really go deep enough. It’s well-intentioned at best but superficial at worst. “Devotion” portrays other African Americans in the U.S. Navy as mostly background characters who admire Jesse from afar, except for one scene where they make a collective effort to personally connect with Jesse.

Tom considers himself to be open-minded and not a racist, but even he has a blind spot about race relations in a society built on white supremacist racism. There’s a section of the movie where Tom and Jesse have a conflict over an infraction that could get Jesse into some minor trouble with the U.S. Navy. Jesse explains to Tom that in a racist society, if a black person and a white person do the same thing that’s wrong, the black person tends to get harsher judgment and worse punishment than the white person. “A slap on my wrist is not the same as a slap on yours,” Jesse tells Tom.

Jesse is also sensitive about Tom acting like a “white savior” to Jesse, whereas Tom sees it as wanting to back up Jesse when Jesse experiences racist bullying. Jesse tells Tom, “I can fight my own fights. I’ve been doing it a long time.” Despite these tensions in their relationship, when Jesse and Tom are in the air, they are professional, and they look out for each other in the way that true friends do.

“Devotion” takes a little bit of a detour from the fighter pilot scenes to show some of the VF-32 squad members during some leisure time in Cannes, France. On a beach in Cannes, they meet movie star Elizabeth Taylor (played by Serinda Swan), who is flirtatious with this group of young military men. She is impressed with this squad and invites them to a glamorous party.

When the squad members arrive at the party, which is at a private mansion, two security guards (played by Erik Bello and Michael David Anderson) at the front door are immediately suspicious of Jesse and treat him differently because of his race. They refuse to believe that Jesse is on the guest list, and are so sure of it, they won’t even check the list. Everyone (including members of the squad) are shocked to see that Jesse knows how to speak French. Jesse takes charge of the situation in a confident way that gets them entry into the party.

Because “Devotion” is a male-oriented military film, the movie’s few women who have speaking roles don’t have much to do and are written as solely existing to react to whatever the men do. Jesse’s wife Daisy is pleasant but is essentially depicted as a stereotypical “loyal and worried wife at home” character. Early on in the movie, when Tom is invited to the Brown home for the first time, Daisy literally tells Tom: “I need you to be there for my Jesse.”

The airplane scenes in the movie are watchable but they’re not outstanding. And the movie’s dialogue can often be simplistic and trite. For example, in a scene involving a life-or-death situation, Tom lectures Jesse, “Mistakes get us killed, Jesse.” In another scene, executive officer Cevoli tells Tom that war medals are quickly forgotten and adds, “The real battle in all of life is being someone people can count on.”

Fortunately, Majors and Powell bring enough personality to their roles to make their respective Jesse and Tom characters look like real human beings instead of stereotypes. However, the character of Tom is much less developed than the character of Jesse, since viewers never get much insight into Tom’s personal life. Jesse introduces Tom to Jesse’s family in Jesse’s home. And although Tom seems like the type of non-racist friend who would do the same for Jesse, it’s never shown in the movie.

“Devotion” can certainly satisfy viewers who are looking for some thrilling airplane action scenes, but most of the movie is about the drama that happens on the ground. “Devotion” hits a lot of familiar beats that are seen in many other movies about airplane pilots who are war heroes. It’s far from a groundbreaking film, but “Devotion” has enough heartbreaking moments to make an impact on viewers.

Columbia Pictures will release “Devotion” in U.S. cinemas on November 23, 2022. The movie will be released on digital, VOD and Paramount+ on January 8, 2023.

Review: ’88’ (2023), starring Brandon Victor Dixon, Naturi Naughton, Thomas Sadoski, Michael Harney, Amy Sloan, Orlando Jones and William Fichtner

June 19, 2022

by Carla Hay

Thomas Sadoski and Brandon Victor Dixon in “88” (Photo by Paul De Lumen)

“88” (2023)

Directed by Eromose

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in the Los Angeles area, sometime before the primaries of the 2024 U.S. presidential election, the dramatic film “88” features a racially diverse cast of characters (African American, white, with some Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A Super PAC (political action committee), which is raising funds for a Democratic candidate for the 2024 U.S. presidential election, finds itself embroiled in political intrigue and potential scandal when the Super PAC’s financial director finds out the source of the majority of the donations received by the Super PAC. 

Culture Audience: “88” will appeal primarily to people interested in a tension-filled political thrillers that have good acting and realistic discussions of race relations.

Brandon Victor Dixon, Naturi Naughton and Jeremiah King in “88” (Photo by Paul De Lumen)

With compelling performances and an absorbing story, the intriguing drama “88” succeeds in its intention to get viewers to think about how U.S. political campaign fundraising is directly tied to race relations in America. The movie has some minor flaws—the pacing drags in a few sections, and some of the dialogue is a little hokey—but these flaws are far outweighed by the above-average acting, realistic conversations and the riveting direction of the movie, which takes viewers on various twists and turns. “88” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Nigerian British filmmaker Eromose wrote, directed and edited “88,” which packs in a lot of issues without being too overstuffed. Eromose (whose real name is Thomas Ikimi) is also one of the producers of “88,” which takes place in the Los Angeles area sometime before the primaries of the 2024 U.S. presidential election. The movie’s protagonist is the smart, talented and ambitious Femi Jackson (played by Brandon Victor Dixon), who has recently become the financial director of a Super PAC (political action committee) called One USA. At the moment, One USA’s main focus is supporting a Democractic Party candidate named Harold Roundtree (played by Orlando Jones), who is the Democractic Party frontrunner for the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

Femi and his wife Maria Jackson (played by Naturi Naughton) are happily married and live a comfortable, middle-class existence. It’s mentioned briefly in the beginning of the movie that Femi and Maria have applied for a mortgage loan. Maria, who works as a bank loan manager, is about eight or nine months pregnant when the movie begins. Femi and Maria are expecting their second child together and have decided to wait until the birth to find out the child’s gender. Maria and Femi have an adorable 9-year-old son named Ola (played by Jeremiah King), who eventually becomes the center of a disagreement that Femi and Maria have about teaching Ola the realities of being a black male in America.

Femi admires Harold so much, he listens to Harold’s speeches when Femi does workout exercises. It’s shown in the movie’s opening scene when Femi is on his exercise bike at home, while a recording of one of Harold’s speeches that he gave at a factory can be heard playing loudly. Femi isn’t an ardent supporter of Harold just because both men happen to be African American. Femi thinks that Harold (who can be described as a moderate Democrat) has political values that are completely in line with Femi’s political values.

Harold says in the speech that Femi is listening to while on the exercise bike: “I was the first person in my family to go to college. My great-grandfather was a slave.” Harold then goes on to mention that Harold’s father and grandfather worked at the same factory where Harold is giving the speech, However, Harold says that his father and grandfather barely made living wages at the factory because they both lived in the Jim Crow era of legal racial segregation that treated anyone who wasn’t white as second-class citizens.

Harold then says in his speech: “I am the architect of my own destiny! I want to give every American the opportunity to be all they can be, to make a stronger home, to make a stronger America.” The assembled crowd can be heard giving enthusiastic cheers and applause after this speech.

Femi’s hero worship of Harold is not shared by everyone in the Jackson household. Maria has political leanings that are more left-wing and more progressive than Femi’s political beliefs. She doesn’t discourage Femi from working to get Harold elected, but she’s skeptical of Harold as a political candidate. It’s not mentioned which candidate (if any) Maria is supporting in this presidential election, but it’s definitely not Harold. Maria is also worried that Femi might be becoming too much of a workaholic in his campaign work for Harold.

The spouses’ different political views can be heard in a conversation early on in the movie. Femi and Ola are big fans of the blockbuster “Black Panther” franchise, based on the Marvel Comics, about an African king superhero named T’Challa (also known as Black Panther) and his colleagues from the fictional African country of Wakanda. When Femi and Ola say the catch phrase “Wakanda Forever!” (which was made popular in the 2018 “Black Panther” movie) and give the Wakanda handshake, it sets off Maria, who is uncomfortable with Ola and Femi being fans of the “Black Panther” franchise.

Maria has issues with “Black Panther” because she feels the stories in the franchise don’t show enough of the Wakandan leaders helping fellow Africans. Maria and Femi have a spirited debate about the merits of the “Black Panther” franchise and how much (or how little) it can be perceived as empowering to black people. When Femi argues that the franchise has made a fortune worth billions, Maria then counters with this statement: “For whom?” It’s her way of saying that even in entertainment that centers on black people, white people make the most money from it.

If this is the type of conversation that makes you uncomfortable, and you don’t want to watch a movie that has this type of discussion, then you might not like “88” very much. The movie has even more uncomfortable and sometimes disturbing conversations about how white supremacy and racism affect many aspects of everyday life. It’s a very thought-provoking film about how insidious and how deep the poison of racism goes in manipulating the outcomes of political elections.

And on a less frequent level, “88” has some discussion about prejudices within the African American community. Femi and his father were born in the United States, and Femi’s mother is a Nigerian immigrant. Femi tells Maria in one of their debates over race and nationality that he’s not going to consider himself less American, just because he has an immigrant mother and Maria’s ancestors were enslaved people in America. Although “88” doesn’t go into the hot-button topic of U.S. reparations for the descendants of enslaved people in the U.S., this conversation between Maria and Femi brings up the complicated issue of who is a “real American,” and how race and nationality of origin affect people’s definitions of being a “real American.”

Aside from some tensions in his otherwise stable marriage, Femi is dealing with an ongoing health issue: He’s a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for an unspecified period of time. At his job, Femi is visited by his unnamed addiction recovery sponsor (played by Kenneth Choi), who is also a recovering addict. The two men have a candid discussion about race, including how Asians and black people are perceived differently by each other and by racist white people. They both agree that racism can come from people of any race, but not everyone is racist.

Femi thinks his job is going smoothly, and he’s very proud of what One USA has been able to accomplish by raising millions in campaign funds for Harold. It’s shown in the movie that One USA has about 20 people working the phones in its non-descript Los Angeles-area headquarters. Harold’s campaign has recently gotten a haul of $40 million in donations from One USA. And that amount has come under scrutiny in the media.

While driving to work, Femi listens to the radio and hears two talk radio hosts wondering suspiciously if the money came from a secret super PAC. The movie also shows several scenes of Harold being interviewed by a TV journalist named Ron Holt (played by William Fitchner), who has a talk show that looks similar to the self-titled PBS show that used to be hosted by disgraced TV journalist Charlie Rose. Ron digs hard at Harold to try to get Harold to slip up and reveal any flaws. However, slick-talking Harold always seems to have an answer that makes Harold look honest and admirable, but always with a hint that maybe Harold is not revealing everything about himself.

The two biggest donors to Harold’s campaign are the non-profit groups and Future Movement Frontiers. Donations from both of these groups account for about 75% of Harold’s campaign funds that were raised by One USA. As explained in an animated clip shown on Ron’s TV show, big-money donors launder their money through non-profits, which then donate to Super PACs. The non-profit groups don’t have to report these donations to the Federal Elections Committee (FEC) because these particular non-profit groups have 501 (c) (4) tax status.

The big mystery in the movie has to do with Femi discovering how and why 75% of the donations are coming from and Future Movement Frontiers, which are relatively small non-profit groups. Femi has noticed that all of the donation figures, if each digit is added up in different combinations, end up totaling the number 88. It’s an unusual pattern that Femi can’t ignore.

Femi emails some computer files to his friend Ira Goldstein (played by Thomas Sadoski), a former investment management executive who is now a financial investigative blogger. Femi asks Ira for his opinion on what he thinks is going on with these financial figures. Femi says, “Whoever is doing this, they’re masking their donations through the non-profits, packaging them, and then sending them to us as larger sums.”

Femi also takes his concerns to his immediate supervisor: One USA executive director Agatha “Aggie” Frost (played by Amy Sloan), who dismisses Femi’s concerns and rejects Femi’s idea to have this matter investigated further. As far as she is concerned, a Super PAC such as One USA isn’t supposed to care where the donation money comes from and should only care about getting the money. Agatha tells Femi sternly, “I gave you a chance when no one else would. Please don’t make me look like an asshole.” It’s later mentioned in the movie that Agatha’s work background is being the owner of an ad agency, which partially explains why she’s very concerned about One USA’s image.

In a staff meeting, Agatha enthusiastically introduces Femi and two other people who have recently joined the One USA team: deputy executive director Fred Fowlkes (played by Michael Harney) and a committee research director named Sahar (played by Pegah Rashti), who happens to be Agatha’s wife. Fred, who is in his 60s, is a well-respected political campaign veteran with a very impressive track record, because it’s mentioned that all of the candidates that he’s worked with in the past several years have won their elections.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Agatha gives a pep talk to the One USA employees, by saying: “We raised more money faster than any other Democratic Super PAC [in] this election cycle. And we won’t slow down until Harold Roundtree is in the White House … We’re more than suits and ties. We’re a movement.”

During a lunch meeting in a diner, Femi and Ira talk about Femi’s curiosity about why so much of the One USA’s donation money is coming from two small non-profit groups. Femi tells Ira that Femi’s boss Agatha has ordered him not to investigate further, but Ira is eager to look into this mystery. After some coaxing, Ira convinces Femi to give more files to Ira, so that Ira can do some independent research.

And what Ira finds and tells Femi further deepens the mystery: Ira has a mind-blowing theory of what the number 88 means. This theory is spoiler information that won’t be revealed in this review. However, it’s enough to say that it’s a vast conspiracy theory that goes beyond just one presidential election.

The rest of “88” has Femi going further down a proverbial rabbit hole of investigating this conspiracy theory. He ends up crossing paths with an author/conspiracy theorist named Hans Muller (played by Jonathan Weir), an elderly recluse who uses a wheelchair and has to breathe through an oxygen mask. Femi’s meeting with Hans is one of the intentionally creepy scenes in the movie because of what Hans tells Femi.

There’s also a British billionaire named Sam Trask (played by Julian Wadham), who’s vacillating between supporting Harold and supporting Hank McGonville, who is Harold’s main Democratic Party rival in the presidential election. Hank is never seen in the movie, but his TV campaign “attack” ad against Harold triggers some desperate reactions from members of the One USA team. Harold’s campaign manager Tom Woods (played by Jon Tenney) plays an important role as a gatekeeper and decision maker in this story.

And just who is Harold Roundtree, the candidate at the center of all these political schemes and machinations? Harold’s interview scenes with Ron reveal that Harold used to be the CEO of the fictional City District Bank, until the bank went out of business during the bank financial crisis of 2008. But by 2009, Harold had started a non-profit group called the Roundtree Institute with an initial investment of $15 million. In the TV interview, Harold spins his bank failure as being a positive learning experience, and he says that at least his bank didn’t take any bailouts from the U.S. government.

One of the best things about “88” is that it has memorable characters and conversations that are very true-to-life. The dynamic between trusted friends Femi and Ira is entertaining to watch and brings a few moments of comic relief. Some of the movie’s best scenes with Dixon and Sadoski are when Femi and Ira are together.

Dixon (who is one of the “88” producers) gives a fascinating performance as someone who has to come to terms with his political ideals and harsh realities. Jones is quite effective in his portrayal of shrewd politician Harold, who is as calculating as he is charismatic. Harney and Sloan also give believable performances, especially in a scene where Fred and Agatha are in a pivotal meeting together.

The movie tends to wander from the main political story when it shows a subplot involving Maria and her willingness to help an ex-con named Jose Gutierrez (played by Elimu Nelson), who wants a bank loan to start a business selling his hand-carved wooden toys. Jose is having trouble getting a loan because he was a convicted felon. (He was in prison for selling marijuana, before California decriminalized its marijuana laws.) And “88” starts to veer a little into soap opera drama when Maria gives birth, and there are some health issues involved in this birth.

However, Naughton has some standout scenes showing where Maria’s political beliefs and life experiences affect Maria’s view of the world and how she interacts with people. There’s a great scene where Maria has a tense discussion with her supervisor Veronica Verton (played by Kelly McCreary) about Veronica’s decision for Jose’s loan application. This powerful scene speaks to issues that people of color have when it comes to helping other people of color.

What’s admirable about “88” is that the characters are not stereotypes but have complexities that are very authentic to real people. The movie shows how Maria isn’t a shallow cliché of a Black Lives Matter extremist who hates all cops. Maria’s sister is married to a white cop named Harry Quale (played by Jonathan Camp), who is welcome in the Jackson home and who spends some quality time with Ola. Maria and Femi teach Ola that there are good cops and bad cops, just like there are good people and bad people in any profession, but that people can be treated differently because of their race.

“88” writer/director/editor Eromose keeps a mostly taut pace throughout this 122-minute film, which sizzles with an intensity of a political thriller that could be based on real events. The conspiracy theory revealed in “88” is not far-fetched, considering all the wild and crazy facts about politics that have been uncovered in real life. Even though “88” is a fictional drama, it sounds an alarm to voters and other people to pay more attention to the sources of political funding. As the movie’s tag line says: “Follow the money.”

UPDATE: Samuel Goldwyn Films will release “88” in select U.S. cinemas on February 17, 2023. The movie will be released on digital and VOD on March 24, 2023.

Review: ‘The Mimic’ (2021), starring Thomas Sadoski and Jake Robinson

February 15, 2021

by Carla Hay

Jake Robinson and Thomas Sadoski in “The Mimic” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“The Mimic” (2021)

Directed by Thomas F. Mazziotti

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed suburb in New York state, the comedy film “The Mimic” features an all-white cast of characters representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A writer is annoyed by a younger man who follows him everywhere and seems to want to copy everything that the writer does.

Culture Audience: “The Mimic” will appeal primarily to people who have the patience to sit through a movie whose comedy is too self-conscious and awkward for its own good.

Jake Robinson and Thomas Sadoski in “The Mimic” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

In the comedy film “The Mimic,” a struggling screenwriter is aggravated because he’s being stalked by a younger man who seems to want to imitate everything about this writer’s life. But viewers will be doubly irritated because both of these characters are equally obnoxious in this dull and time-wasting film. Written and directed by Thomas F. Mazzioti, “The Mimic” is one of those movies that tries too hard to be deadpan funny, but the dialogue is often idiotic and downright cringeworthy.

Most of the characters in this movie don’t have names. In the film’s credits, the two central characters are listed as The Narrator (played by Thomas Sadoski) and The Kid (played by Jake Robinson), who are at odds with each other for almost the entire story. The Narrator is a 41-year-old widower who writes for a small newspaper in the unnamed suburb where he lives in New York state. The Kid is a 31-year-old married man who’s recently moved near The Narrator. The Kid begins stalking The Narrator and tries to copy his mannerisms and actions. Neither of these men has kids, which is a good thing, because no child deserves to have insufferable parents like these two self-absorbed creeps.

It’s soon becomes clear to viewers that there’s nothing about The Narrator’s life or personality that’s worth mimicking. He’s bitter about being alone, and he doesn’t like to see other people happy in their personal lives. And he has a weird obsession with the concept of being a sociopath—so much so that he immediately calls The Kid a sociopath. And he keeps calling him a sociopath repeatedly, when it wasn’t even funny the first time.

Needless to say, “The Mimic” is one of those movies that has annoying voiceover narration from you-know-who. And making things worse, the entire movie is filled with cheesy sitcom music as the film score. The actors in the movie are adequate but can’t save this embarrassing and clunky film that can’t decide whether it wants to be a dark comedy or a screwball comedy.

“The Mimic” starts out somewhat promising, by appearing to be unconventional and unpredictable. The opening line is a voiceover of The Narrator saying, “The high point of the weekend was when my St. Bernard fell through my attic ceiling and landed on my kitchen table.”

Why? Because The Kid was up in the attic snorting cocaine and somehow the dog fell through the floor. It sounds like a situation ripe for some potentially hilarious slapstick, but the movie just mentions this scenario and does nothing clever with it. There are too many moments in this film where it’s nothing but silly arguments and unimaginative action.

The first time that The Narrator meets The Kid, it’s when The Kid shows up unannounced at a newspaper staff meeting and says he wants to write for the paper. Apparently, this newspaper has no budget for an office but instead the staffers meet in someone’s living room. The Narrator says in a voiceover: “I first met The Kid when he infiltrated our small-town newspaper, right after my wife died. I say ‘infiltrated,’ because I believe it was a deliberate action to meet me.”

Up until The Kid came along, The Narrator (who says he’s a trying to write a screenplay) was the only man on the staff. The rest of the newspaper employees are four middle-aged and elderly women, who hire The Kid on the spot without even interviewing him. The Narrator thinks these women are all tedious and uptight because they obsess over things like comma placement in an article. Meanwhile, the only reason why this scene seems to exist is to have Marilu Henner, Didi Conn and Jessica Walter share a scene, since they play three of the women on the newspaper staff.

In fact, “The Mimic” is filled with cameos from character actors whose names are best known to people who are familiar to TV shows and movies from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. M. Emmet Walsh, Austin Pendleton and Josh Pais all make brief appearances in the movie, which wastes their talent with nonsensical scenes. Gina Gershon has a cameo as a woman who has a tryst with The Kid in a restaurant ladies’ room, because the movie keeps mentioning that The Kid has a thing for older women.

After The Narrator and The Kid meet, The Kid starts showing up in the same places where The Narrator is and says to him: “We’re on the same wavelength!” At an outdoor park, The Kid and The Narrator have a conversation where The Kid reveals a little bit more about his personal life.

The Kid, who moved from New Jersey to New York, says he’s been married for seven years to his high-school sweetheart, but their marriage hit a rough patch when he left her for an older woman. That affair didn’t last, and his wife took him back. The Kid then inexplicably plucks two giant mushrooms from the park and holds each mushroom upright in each hand during this conversation, so this movie can make his character look “quirky.” It’s one of many sight gags in the movie that don’t work well at all.

As much as The Kid seems to be obsessed with The Narrator for unknown reasons, The Narrator is also fixated on The Kid. At an optometrist appointment, The Narrator is asked to read the eye chart and he can only see the word “sociopath,” so he spells it out for the doctor who’s giving the eye exam. The Narrator says, “I’m a writer and I’m still trying to read between the lines.” The Narrator also goes to a library to do more research on sociopaths.

Later, The Narrator and The Kid have a long-winded conversation at a restaurant. The Narrator (and the audience) can’t be certain how much of what The Kid says is true and how much is a lie. However, The Narrator becomes intrigued about learning more about The Kid’s wife because she sounds like the type of wife whom The Narrator wishes he had.

The Narrator and The Kid have other meet-ups, such as at a tennis court, a hospital and eventually at The Kid’s house. The Kid’s wife seems to be elusive though, so that becomes a subplot that doesn’t really go anywhere. “The Mimic” is such a badly written movie that it never actually shows The Narrator or The Kid having lives outside of their moronic conversations.

The Narrator says that he’s using his experiences with The Kid as his next screenplay, but the movie never shows him doing any work either on the screenplay or at his newspaper job. Whatever The Kid does to make money, it remains vague and questionable, just like many other things about this character’s life.

How bad is “The Mimic”? In a scene where The Narrator and The Kid first have dinner together at what looks to be a mid-priced restaurant, The Narrator says in a voiceover: “It’s been my experience, with women at least, that if she orders white wine, she’s classy. If she orders red wine, she has class, but she can get a little wild. And if she orders rosé, she’s a slut.”

Guess which type of wine The Kid orders, considering that he’s supposed to be the “crazy” one of this duo? The Kid’s obsession with The Narrator and vice versa have some undertones of homoeroticism, which The Narrator seems to acknowledge when he says, “This is turning into a gay relationship without the sex.”

In another of many scenes with bad dialogue, Pais portrays The Narrator’s unnamed lawyer, who meets with The Narrator over lunch at a restaurant. For no reason whatsoever, the lawyer says, “I hate cats. They close their eyes when they eat. I want them to know who’s feeding them and who’s paying for everything.”

If people have the misfortune to watch this terrible movie from beginning to end, they’ll be closing their eyes too from falling asleep (because it’s so boring) or because they want to un-see some of the stupidity that’s on the screen.

Gravitas Ventures released “The Mimic” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on February 5, 2021.

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