It’s been along time since relentless, biting satire found its way to the big screen and skewered its subjects with such impressive skill. Writer/director Reginald Harkema will have legions of Republicans, Religious Right and obediently blind conservatives everywhere praying for him due to his misguided notion that faith-driven home murder in upscale L.A. is just as reprehensible as the power-fuelled dousing of napalm on huts in Vietnam. The perpetrators of the former end up on trial for their lives, those who are culpable in the latter are largely promoted and revered—held up as yet another shining example of tough-love Christianity.
Sadly, the “silent majority” who gave rise to the twin incidents occurring in the first place won’t dare see the film, preferring to continue their systematic our-might-is-always-right view of how the world should be. Those who do come through the turnstiles of this hippie-era tale, may miss the subtext, preferring to savour the notions of free love, endless drugs and unstinting devotion to a self-proclaimed father figure who is so much more devoted to his “children” than those dads who couldn’t abide the myth of the American Dream once revealed (two camps emerged from these desperate men: those who abandoned their loving environments and those who embraced the notion that Dad, God and the President are one-in-the same personas).
The acting is at one with the message. In the title role, Kristen Hager morphs easily from all-American girl to occult slut, bedding her surrogate father and his hunkier disciple with equal abandon. More in love with Jesus than lusting male flesh, Kristin Adams (Dorothy) displays a wholesome believability in tandem with the stereotype, but manages to slip in a bit of “tongue-love” that convincingly rounds out her faith-driven character.
The men don’t disappoint either. Ryan Robbins’ Charles Manson impersonation is suitably cross (literally, with a touch of Sebastiane as he adorns the wooden easel and laugh from Hell that one usually expects from the likes of Jack Nicholson). Sporting the finest buns of the lads, Travis Milne engagingly beds “my beauties” on demand and contributes his fair share to the campfire jamming and Salomé dance-like sequence. The most conflicted character is Perry (Gregory Smith). He’s willing to hold back his full-service sexual desire until his wedding night with Dorothy, only to lose his pent-up seed in a dream sequence with Leslie that must be every jurist’s plague and pleasure. Smith crafts a multilayered performance that demands further forays into the art. Special mention also goes to Don McKellar whose role as the prosecutor keeps the extended courtroom proceedings moving steadily forward to their “miracle” conclusion.
The archival stills and footage let documented travesties of the past speak with an anguished, mostly silent display of systemic inhumanity. Particularly telling are the intercuts of Kent State college beatings and death while Perry (the gifted chemist is suddenly a get-out-of-the-draft future employee of an American company whose weapons of mass destruction are not the stuff of war-mongering myth) copping a feel from Dorothy as his colleagues are pummelled to the ground.
Occasionally slipping into the ugly-but-we-we-really-can-be-like-this realm of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (the home invasion is most certainly not for the life-is-beautiful crowd), Harkema pulls no punches making his points even as the routine torturing of Afghan detainees now rears its British head. But it’s just a movie, right?
Be sure to wait through the credits for Richard Nixon’s dulcet tones trying to inspire the American people to follow his lead …. JWR