18½

June 8, 2022

Film Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

… a fun, quirky and borderline satirical take on American culture.
18

18½

James Fletcher
Year: 2021
Director: Dan Mirvish
Cast:

Willa Fitzgerald, John Magaro, Richard Kind, Sullivan Jones, Vondi Curtis Hall, Catherine Curtin, Bruce Campbell (voice)

Released: July 7 – 17, 2022
Running Time: 88 minutes
Worth: $15.00

FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

… a fun, quirky and borderline satirical take on American culture.

Remember the good old days when conspiracy theories were the prerogative of survivalist cults and basement dwellers that offered the general populace a slightly comedic sense of superiority? You know, before they became sanctioned political platforms and social movements causing real-world damage and social anarchy.

For most of us, conspiracy theories found popularity with rumours of a faked moon landing, speculation surrounding a second gunman, a grassy knoll and JFK’s very public, very final televised appearance, and the always entertaining Flat Earthers who continue to circulate their defective science around the globe.

However, it’s one of the quieter conspiracies associated with Nixon’s Watergate scandal that drives the narrative of 18½, a socio-political comedy from director Dan Mirvish [Between Us, Slamdance co-founder] that manages to walk a tightrope between fact, fiction, and outright satire.

For those needing a refresher of the Watergate scandal, then-President Nixon faced a political crisis after being connected with a break-in that targeted his political opponents, and then conspired to cover-up the incident and sparking a constitutional crisis. Where our friendly neighbourhood conspiracy theorists enter the picture is when 18½ minutes of recording is somehow mysteriously erased from the associated tapes. Supposedly, no one really knows what was contained in those 18½ minutes, who deleted them or what impact it could have had on Nixon’s subsequent pardon as he stepped down from the office of President.

It’s a great premise for a taut politic thriller and with the missing audio still debated by political commentors and academics, ripe for intrigue and speculation.

Mirvish thankfully abandons any Oliver Stone tropes in favour of a quirky, 1970s showcase of America stepping out of the indulgence of its free-love Hippy exploits into a more structured, social maturity as it faces escalating political and corporate threats exploiting its democracy. And while it sounds like heavy subject matter, 18½ is a fun, quirky and borderline satirical take on American culture.

The film is headlined by the versatile Willa Fitzgerald (Reacher, The Goldfinch) as a stenographer who happens on an unexpected recording of a playback of the original recording that contains the missing 18½ minutes, and John Magaro (The Many Saints of Newark, Orange is the New Black) as a young journalist looking to make a name for himself, albeit simply to burn his ex-fiancé who happens to work for a rival newspaper. The result is a feisty odd-couple comedy with the two leads posing as newlyweds in a small town resort with hopes of verifying the recording before exposing it through the media.

While the film does play into stereotypes and clichés on the regular, its ability to pick away at the social calamity and cultural idiosyncrasies of the era – thanks to some wonderfully diverse performances from a superb support ensemble that includes Richard Kind as a hapless receptionist, Sullivan Jones (The Gilded Age) as a militant hippy, Vondie Curtis-Hall and Catherine Curtin (Stranger Things) as a rather uncomfortably amorous couple, and the great Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) as the voice of Nixon on the infamous tapes – allow 18½ to succeed unapologetically.

18½ may sound like it promises a lot in terms of revelation and intrigue; it doesn’t. But once you get past that expectation and allow the film’s charm and cast to take centre stage, what you’re left with is an entertaining, comedic and chaotic romp through mid-1970s nostalgia with contemporary, meta sensibilities.

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