(director/writer: Austin Stark, Joseph Schuman; cinematographer: Conor Murphy; editors: Harrison Atkins, Alan Canant; music: Nathan Halpern; cast: Peter Sarsgaard (Floyd Monk, cook), Billy Magnussen (Jay Horton, journalist), Sarah Gadon (Julie), Skye P. Marshall (Mrs. Tidwell, Black Maid), Faran Tahir (Kaan, chauffeur-butler), Kristine Nielsen (Mrs. McMurray, Irish housekeeper), Callum Vinson (Tom), Willa Dunn (Molly), Fisher Stevens (Upton Sinclair); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Brian Levy, Harris Gurny, Warner Davis, Molly Conners, Amanda Bowers, Jane Sinisi; Film Constellation; 2023)
“Muddled but breezy satire on class warfare.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Austin Stark (“The God Committee”/”The Runner”) and Joseph Schuman co-direct and co-write this muddled but breezy satire on class warfare, using the backdrop of the 1918 Spanish flu.
Floyd Monk (Peter Sarsgaard) has a thick Southern accent, dresses as a bohemian and wears ear-rings. He’s employed as the new chef in the seaside mansion, on Egg Island, New York, of the famous crusading leftist journalist, JC Horton (Billy Magnussen), during the lockdown in Venice in 1918 for the Spanish flu. Horton only pretends to be in Venice, as he writes from home for journals and tells them about the brave common folks and the bullying police.
His wife Julie (Sarah Gadon) and children Tom (Callum Vinson) and Molly (Willa Dunn) proudly support his liberal views.
But Monk relishes mocking his rich boss, whom he deems as a pretend friend to the working-class–a hypocrite who could care less about the proletariat he writes about and falsely promotes himself as most accommodating to his household servants- the Turkish immigrant chauffeur-butler (Faran Tahir), the Black maid (Skye P. Marshall), and the Irish housekeeper (Kristine Nielsen).
Horton has political ambitions, as he preps to be a candidate on the newly formed progressive party and eventually be a Senator. But that dream ends when a magazine article exposes him as a fraud.
The film is content to be a gentle and glib drama pointing out how phony America’s privileged class can be when talking about the sacrifices they make for their country.
It played at the Venice Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 9/20/2023 GRADE: B