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Ike Barinholtz finds humor in a political dystopia with dark comedy 'The Oath'

Sonaiya Kelley, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- Ike Barinholtz's dark comedy "The Oath" centers around a fictional Patriot's Oath -- an optional but highly incentivized pledge of loyalty American citizens are encouraged to sign to the president.

A loyalty vow to an American president? Sounds insane, right?

"Oh, let me check Twitter. Has it already happened since we sat down?" said Barinholtz, who wrote, produced, directed and starred in the film, over lunch at the Four Seasons.

In "The Oath," which opens in limited release Friday, Barinholtz stars as Chris, a proudly liberal, 24-hour-news junkie who obsesses over the looming deadline for the Patriot's Oath, which has been scheduled for Black Friday. Tensions rise over Thanksgiving dinner as Chris' more traditionally minded parents (Nora Dunn and Chris Ellis), conservative brother (Jon Barinholtz) and his brother's far-right-leaning girlfriend (Meredith Hagner) clash over differing ideologies.

"I know the movie is political in nature, but I don't think it's about politics," said Barinholtz. "I think it's about a family and how they deal with the current political climate."

He added: "I wanted everyone to be a blown-up version of themselves. It was important to me that we are not like, 'The conservatives are complete idiots and always wrong.' The movie takes a side. But I want to show all the sides and want to show the absurdity."

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Though the conceit of the film centers more around a relatable family dynamic than any particularly partisan political outlook, Barinholtz says the story wouldn't exist without the current administration.

"I never really knew anything about Donald Trump; I just thought he was a nerdy guy we saw on TV," he said. "And then as he started becoming more and more of a political force, I started reading about him, and I learned about his obsession with loyalty."

The idea for the film came about after an argument broke out at his own Thanksgiving celebration in 2016, just after Trump was elected.

"We do a big Thanksgiving at my house every year," he said. "It's my family's favorite holiday, we love it. But after dinner, we were all sitting around drinking booze and my mom and brother and I got into this argument.

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