In a way, the satiric comedy Mister America — now streaming as part of the online Gimli Film Festival — is a feature-length climax to a much-longer tale that encompasses co-writers Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington’s online project On Cinema at the Cinema, a low-rent Siskel and Ebert-inspired program in which the duo’s terrible attempts to review films are generally sidetracked by their own egos and showbiz aspirations.

This is cringey comedy, and the cringe factor is taken up a few notches in this narrative spinoff.

MOVIE REVIEW

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Mister America

Starring Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington

86 minutes

Available on demand at wfp.to/mramerica

★★★ 1/2 stars out of five

After being tried for second-degree murder following the deaths of 20 people at a failed Fyre-esque rock festival, Heidecker (playing a character called Tim Heidecker) gets off because of a hung jury. A vengeful Trumpian egotist, he takes it upon himself to run as DA against prosecuting attorney Vincent Rosetti (Don Pecchia), with the help of creepily devoted campaign manager Toni (Terri Parks), who — yikes! — was also a juror at his trial.

The fact that Heidecker is not a lawyer is not seen as an issue, at least for him. "You want an outsider to come in and shake things up," Tim says, a deliberate and somewhat sickening echo of the rationale that saw a reality show TV host become president. How’s that working out for you, America?

The movie is an ostensible documentary by a novice filmmaker who follows Tim around as he attempts to get enough signatures to get on the San Bernadino, Calif., ballot.

He and Toni have a few terrible ideas along the way, such as coming up with posters featuring the campaign slogan "We Have a Rat Problem" — an attack on Rosetti — that he blithely tapes on the doors and windows of various businesses.

Director Eric Notarnicola apparently shot much of the film guerrilla-style with various San Bernadino residents, who apparently are not aware the project is a joke. These scenes are almost invariably uncomfortable, and not in a good comedic way. It’s generally better to watch Tim make an ass of himself with other actors or on his own. (He has a very funny little scene in which he visits a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. to gain some inspiration, despite the fact he knows very little about the man or his cause. Indeed, when Tim visits a Black barbershop, he doesn’t fully understand the chilly reception when he talks about outlawing rap music.)

Turkington (who may be better known as his standup alter ego, Neil Hamburger) shows up as well. The film critic, wearing an authentic piece of movie graft in the form of a Time Machine baseball cap, wants to get in on the action when he smells a film crew, presumably to score another IMDb credit while pathetically boasting of his own cameo appearance in the movie Ant-Man. The film crew does follow him long enough to watch him scoring a box of dumped VHS tapes in an alleyway, arguably the most realistic moment in this faux documentary.

As sad as his persona may be, Turkington’s appearances provide some valuable breathing room in the movie because, truthfully, Heidecker’s persona is a little hard to take after a while.

The political candidate "Tim Heidecker" is an awful guy, a bigot, an egotist, an ignoramus and an opportunist. As deft as Heidecker may be in his portrayal, it may just be too hard to laugh him off at this tragic point in history.

Co-writers and stars Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington will do a panel moderated by Winnipeg filmmaker Guy Maddin today at 4 p.m., viewable free at gimlifilm.com/gff-live-stream/#/

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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