'The Misogynists': Film Review

Courtesy of Factory 25
A nasty showcase for Dylan Baker.
3/20/2020

Dylan Baker plays a man using Trumpy bluster to mask personal despair in writer/director/provocateur Onur Tukel's latest.

A three-act play-like look at a certain kind of man's response to the ascent of Donald Trump, The Misogynists casts Dylan Baker as an all-purpose bigot who, deep down, probably knows he's reveling in his last chance to be himself and better cram in as much as possible. It's a tour-de-force for an actor who's more than willing to be loathsome and will be welcomed by both Baker's fans and those of writer/director/provocateur Onur Tukel. But casual moviegoers may not find it as revelatory as comparisons to early Neil LaBute films suggest. Men like Baker's Cameron have hardly been keeping their feelings bottled up in the real world, after all.

Recently separated from his wife, Cameron is living in a Manhattan hotel — fifteen grand a month is a small price for somebody else to change the sheets and towels, right? On the night of the 2016 presidential election, he's being visited by one colleague (Lou Jay Taylor's Baxter) with another (Matt Walton's Grant) expected soon.

Tukel never explains why the other two men, neither of whom rooted for Trump, are visiting tonight, of all nights, except to hint that Cam outranks them in the workplace and might need to be indulged. Surely, Cam needs an audience for this kind of gloating: He needs to share his absurd conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton's defeat means the end of a gender-wide collusion between not just Democratic women but George Bush's daughters; he needs above all someone to do coke with.

Despite the film's title, this is really the story of a single true woman-hater, Cameron: Baxter is the kind of moral weakling who leans toward decency but can be blown in the other direction by a stiff breeze — or, in Cam's case, by a bag of hot air. (Making his screen debut, Taylor is reminiscent of the cowardly family man immortalized on 30 Rock by Scott Adsit.) While squeaking out the occasional "come on, man" objection to Cam's assertions of white male privilege, Baxter fields frequent calls from his wife Alice (Christine M. Campbell), who's sitting at home crying about Clinton's defeat.

The first sign that Tukel wants to tweak all sides in this acrid scenario is that, to a large extent, he makes Alice conform to Cam's wife-phobic description of her. Despite having already told Baxter she's fine with him staying out tonight, Alice insists he mustn't order more than one beer (he's actually had half a bottle of whiskey); she scolds him for the burger he says he's eating; and she paints Trump voters with as broad a brush as the right uses for Hillary-lovers.

Soon Tukel's using a similar approach with Cameron's next-door neighbor at the hotel, a black woman who's right to object to the racket he's making but who makes her husband uncomfortable calling him a "white piece of shit."

The only people who (mostly) escape criticism here are the two escorts Cam calls, hoping to persuade Baxter to make this little party an orgy. Ivana Milicevic and Trieste Kelly Dunn get the film's midsection to themselves, debating whether they want to go have sex for money on the night of Trump's election. Familiar arguments about who's really being exploited ensue, and Tukel manages to cram an nasty anti-Muslim exchange in before the women show up at Cam's hotel and the real ugliness begins. Only a surreal touch involving a television with a mind of its own interrupts the psychological descent of the third act, which draws a conclusion many viewers will already take as a truism: Some of those who are loudest in their disdain for the humans around them aren't too thrilled with themselves, either.

Production companies: Anjuna Pictures, Kjax
Distributors: Factory 25, Oscilloscope Labs
Cast: Dylan Baker, Lou Jay Taylor, Christine M. Campbell, Ivana Milicevic, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Matt Walton
Director-screenwriter-editor: Onur Tukel
Producers: Gigi Graff
Director of photography: Zoe White
Production designer: Estee Braverman
Costume designer: Charlie LaRose

84 minutes