Friday, March 15, 2019

SXSW with Abe: The Day Shall Come

I’m excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the second time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

The Day Shall Come
Directed by Chris Morris
Narrative Spotlight

There’s so much going on in the world today that’s ripe to be made fun of, some of it lighthearted and some much direr. Becoming politically active and advocating for change is one route, and while broadcasting a problematic aspect of society through a humorous lens won’t necessarily create any progress, it is capable of reaching a wider audience. Depending on how outrageous the parody is, it is possible that those watching it won’t actually comprehend that it is indeed being presenting in a larger-than-life manner, and whether it lands or not may have little to do with if it is funny.

Moses (Marchánt Davis) is a preacher who commands three followers and the members of his family in his blend of multiple faiths that believes in, among other things, a Black Santa and the eventual superiority of the black race. When his home and church is threatened by an eviction notice, Moses is offered a large sum of money from a mysterious Middle Eastern investor (Kayvan Novak), unaware that he is working for the FBI, whose Agent Glack (Anna Kendrick) has identified Moses as a potential threat and is looking to get him arrested on weapons charges before he can truly cause problems of his own invention.

It seems at times as if only Moses has no trouble taking himself seriously, while everyone else, including his mostly loyal wife (Danielle Brooks), is far from convinced that he and his horse have magical powers and that he really does speak directly to God. Agent Glack and her supervisor Andy (Denis O’Hare) roll their eyes at his expressed ideas almost as much as they assess him to be a true threat. There is evidently delusion at the heart of his well-meaning crusade, which of course is significant to the FBI’s preemptive threats to get him off the streets even though he doesn’t understand the weight of the things they hope to put him away for doing or attempting.

This is a case where less would indeed be more, though the fault lies not with the portrayal of Moses and his passionate religion but more with the FBI, whose agents make every effort to go the easy route and score a PR win rather than calculate if someone with less than a dozen disciples should be given so much attention. Described as “based on 100 true stories,” this skewering look at how the government and law enforcement treat political insurgents, especially those who are black, aims way too high and ends up with a messy, unfulfilling product. “Four Lions,” which also stars Novak, is a far funnier and more worthwhile send-up of terrorism in this vein. While O’Hare is dependable in this kind of sardonic role, Kendrick really needs to be picking better roles since she’s capable of so much more. After so much humor, this film attempts a serious, thought-provoking finish which feels all too unconvincing.


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