Right after the 2016 election — and the Thanksgiving that followed — Ike Barinholtz began developing the idea for his new movie, “The Oath,” which he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in. The story follows a liberal couple, Chris (Barinholtz) and Kai (Tiffany Haddish), and their politically divided family the Thanksgiving after a fictional US president orders Americans to sign a loyalty oath, with a deadline of Black Friday. The festivities, as one might imagine, quickly go off the rails. Ahead of the Oct. 12 premiere of “The Oath,” Barinholtz stopped in Boston to discuss the film.
Q. What is it about Thanksgiving?
A. Thanksgiving is almost like a stop to the year. Not a whole lot happens between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s a perfect holiday. And so, I just knew. After the election, we had our Thanksgiving. And we’re sitting there after dinner, having a few drinks. And my mom and my brother and I got in a pretty big fight about the election. You know, no violence, but like, yelling. And the next day I said to my wife, “That is so crazy, we all voted for the same person, enthusiastically.” And it just made me think about my friends who are all around the country and I started calling them, you know: “How’d it go?” And I started hearing horror stories.
Q. The two main characters in the film are very liberal, but you managed to make a movie that is not just for one political mind-set. How did you get that balance?
A. That’s my goal. I think there’s a version of this movie, and like the first draft, [where] the first thing I noticed was this is just too skewed towards me. The version of this movie where my character is the most liberal, and he’s right, and he acts like a hero, and he has abs. That movie seems like, I don't want to watch that. That’s not good satire. Satire has to kind of poke fun at the entire situation. I’m not a both sides kind of guy, but I think if you’re going to do satire you have to pull the lights up on everyone, and expose everyone’s bad behavior.
Q. You’ve written, directed, produced, and acted in a bunch of stuff before, but I this is the only thing other than the TV show “The Mindy Project” where you’ve worn all four hats.
A. Look, being an actor in a movie is very fun for you, very nice. And it’s significantly less work. And I still like, whenever I get sent a cool script to be a hired gun on, I get excited, if I love it. But for me, I think out of all this chaos, I think kind of like the [anguish of the] ’70s, we had Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and Vietnam and Kent State and everyone was freaking out, and one of the things that came out of it was you had these new storytellers telling these stories. You had “Easy Rider” and you had Hal Ashby and Robert Altman.
And I’ve been very encouraged this year to see all these new voices. I loved “Get Out,” and “Sorry to Bother You,” and the movie “Blindspotting.” And I hear “The Hate U Give” is great. One of the few good things about living in this era is that we have these new stories to tell. And so, to me, if I’m able to get more opportunities to take something — a story that I think is unique and different and reflective of this insanely absurd age that we’re living in, and I’m going to have someone let me do it and tell it — that’s definitely what I want to do.Interview was edited and condensed. Lillian Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @lilliangbrown.