Review by Cole Groth
Politics have taken a nauseating turn in the last few years from an easy point of discussion to a minefield of controversy. With American society so divided in recent years, political satires have become both a necessity and an increasingly frustrating genre of film. Despite his best efforts, co-writer and director David Stassen has created a political mockumentary that takes the easy way out. It’s too safe to be impactful and too often unbearable to look at, making this a frequently regrettable watch.
In Maximum Truth, co-writer and star Ike Barinholtz leads as a political grifter, Rick, who teams up with a douchey friend (Dylan O’Brien) to take down a highly popular candidate in a local race. As Rick desperately searches for dirt, he finds himself digging his own political grave, the results of which are revealed as soon as the movie begins. Then, we sit through 90 minutes of chaos as the most pathetic politician alive fails at everything he does.
While the premise seems interesting at first glance, it doesn’t go in many interesting directions beyond a tagline. Stassen and Barinholtz thinly veil their political critiques of the GOP without mentioning the party by name. If their goal was to not offend one side, it wouldn’t work, and without naming any specifics, it feels like they’re trying too hard to win over both sides. In the cutthroat world of politics, you can’t expect to win them all, a lesson sorely missed by the screenplay.
While the script is disappointing, the large cast is a well-assembled group. Barinholtz is a great lead, exuding patheticness in every scene. Joined by a chaotically scummy Dylan O’Brien, the two play a fun, if mostly grating, duo. A fantastic group of actors, including Beth Grant, Andrew Friedman, Kiernan Shipka, and Max Minghella, fill out more minor roles. For the most part, their characters stand out as fun notes.
It’s unfortunate that, given a talented group behind the scenes, the final product is so frustrating. Maximum Truth operates in an annoying subgenre of cringe comedy. Nearly every scene pushes the boundaries of how pathetic Rick can get, and by the end, the embarrassment of his actions is downright depressing. Cringe comedies need an extra amount of laughs to make up for the uncomfortable feeling, but the balance is off here, so it’s an all-around muddled experience.
For those who don’t mind feeling uncomfortable for prolonged periods of time, there are enough good jokes to keep Maximum Truth from being a total waste of time. With a few more revisions on the screenplay, there’s probably a solid satire to be found. Unfortunately, this is the finished product, and it’s a bit of a mess.
Maximum Truth is now in theaters and on VOD.