Mister America (2019) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): His silly and pathetic campaign

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“Mister America” is a mockumentary film about the silly and pathetic campaign of a guy who is not a very likable person to say the least. He is so vain, obnoxious, delusional, and narcissistic that you cannot help but shake your head as watching him bumping from one failure to another in his loony quest for personal revenge, and the movie tries to generate some vicious laughs from that, though it is not as successful as its makers intended.

Mainly through the camera held by a small bunch of documentary film crew members not seen on the screen, we see Tim Heidecker, who is playing here the fiction version of himself from “On Cinema at the Cinema”, embarking on his campaign for the upcoming election for the San Bernardino district attorney. Although there is not anyone to assist him besides a woman who recently got hired as his campaign manager, he is confident that he will win the election in the end, and you may roll your eyes as observing how woefully he is unprepared in many aspects. For example, he is not a lawyer, and he is not even a resident of San Bernardino, but he remains pretty oblivious to these and other problems while staying in some posh hotel room, which he uses as the headquarters of his campaign.

It is soon revealed to us that his campaign is motivated by a very petty and impertinent reason. Around the time when he was the co-host of TV movie review show “On Cinema at the Cinema”, Heidecker also dabbled in a number of questionable enterprises, and one of them was a music concert which turned out to be quite disastrous for a massive incident of drug overdose. As that incident resulted in the death of 20 people in addition to the serious injury of more than 100 people, he was subsequently charged for this incident, but, despite his many moments of insolence at the court, he was eventually released because of a certain jury member insisting on his innocence, and now he is determined to get his revenge on Vincent Rosetti (Don Pecchia), the incumbent district attorney of San Bernardino who pressed that charge on him.

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With his campaign manager, Toni Newman (Terri Parks), Heidecker discusses a bit on how he gets more exposure and attention in public, but, not so surprisingly, he turns out to be his worst enemy. He tries social media for exposing him more to those potential voters out there in San Bernardino, but he only comes to make a fool of himself, and neither Rosetti nor Rosetti’s main opponent gives any attention to him at all. When he tries to approach to the residents of San Bernardino for himself, nobody is particularly interested in him, and many of them still remember well how he managed to avoid the responsibility for that tragic incident.

The documentary film crew members are later approached by Gregg Turkington, who is also playing the fiction version of himself from “On Cinema at the Cinema”, and he certainly tells them a lot about how silly and pathetic Heidecker is. In short, Heidecker is more or less than a plain and shabby version of Donald J. Trump, and he does not have any reflection or thought on his continuing series of failures while often blaming others.

And this tendency of his becomes more evident in front of the camera as there is not much time left for Heidecker and Newman. Frequently mired in morose self-pity, Heidecker often lashes out at Newman, but Newman, who incidentally turns out to be as goofy and incompetent as her boss, keeps sticking to him as his sole moral support, and she continues to try her best – or her worst, perhaps. When he decides to do something illegal for making him a legitimate candidate, she hesitates a bit, but she eventually goes along with that, and we get some laugh as they attempt to concoct a number of false names for their illegal deed.

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Newman later manages to hold a meeting where Heidecker is supposed to debate with Rosetti in front of the residents of San Bernardino, but, again, they disastrously fail right from the beginning. Rosetti does not appear, and only a few people come to the meeting, probably because they are curious or do not have anything else to do. Furthermore, Turkington also comes to the meeting for revealing more of Heidecker’s checkered past, and it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that Heidecker finally comes to lose his temper as trying to handle this increasingly messy circumstance.

All these and other moments in the film are dryly and monotonously presented one by one, and that aspect of the movie is further accentuated by the deliberately flat filmmaking approach of director/co-writer Eric Notarnicola, who wrote the screenplay along with Heidecker and Turkington. It looks like they attempt a deadpan political satire here, but many of supposedly humorous moments in their movie feel pale compared to what we witnessed from Trump’s presidential election campaign in 2016, and we only come to watch its incorrigible hero from the distance without much care and attention.

Although it mildly amused me at times, “Mister America” does not have enough wit and humor to compensate for its rather stale story and characters, and its only genuine surprise for me comes from an old Disney movie mentioned by Turkington at one point. I initially thought it was just a fictional joke, but, right after watching the movie, I checked Wikipedia, and then, what do you know, I discovered that the movie does exist. To be frank with you, that tickled me more than anything else in the film.

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