Mister America (2019)
Directed by Eric Notarnicola
Written by Tim Heidecker, Eric Notarnicola, & Gregg Turkington

In terms of conceptual comedy, Tim Heidecker's pedigree is unquestionable. Whether that means you will enjoy everything he chooses to create is another story. Mister America is a prime example of his commitment to taking a joke as far as possible, and letting the laughs—if any—simply fall where they may.

The film is an extension of On Cinema At The Cinema, Heidecker's series with Gregg Turkington. If anyone matches or exceeds Heidecker's own relish for complete banality, it's Turkington, whose Neil Hamburger character is as polarizing as, say, Heidecker's earlier film The Comedy. Together they create a reality so relentlessly uninteresting, and a dynamic so petty, that watching Mister America without having seen the earlier series, you might well just think this is a very flat documentary.

The genius of it, though, is how the film builds on events from the web series to take the story into a much wider and bleaker reality. Heidecker and Turkington play fictional versions of themselves whose relationship deteriorates over the course of Heidecker's spiteful and deluded campaign for District Attorney of San Bernadino.

Whether or not you've seen the lead-up, Mister America is not aiming for big belly-laughs. If anything, the most savage humor comes in the form of micro-jokes like Heidecker blithely drinking a Bud Light, or saying a bunch of words devoid of any content to show how not present this character is in any given moment. It's comedy, alright, but a particularly brutal form which has only the slightest of empathy for its characters.

The performances are great, especially Terri Parks as Heidecker's long-suffering friend Toni Newman, whose increasingly disillusioned reactions to Heidecker's complete lack of self-awareness are kind of heartbreaking. Heidecker, as usual, proves eerily adept at playing an empty vessel, clearly drawing from the MAGA well to embody the sort of vacous entitlement we see so much of these days. And while the film ultimately feels pretty slight, it does seem like where On Cinema needed to go, purely by following its intentionally beige logic to its natural conclusion.

Review by Wimpempy Tarlisle