Words by: Jack Dawson
I feel somewhat undercut here. Usually I hear about movies months in advance, the Hollywood hype machine is as useful as it is inescapable. And then Funny or Die comes along and releases a feature length satire of Donald Trump and his cultivated public persona without any prior warning. And then they cast Johnny Depp as Donald Trump, shoot the whole thing as if it’s a cheesy 80’s TV movie and have Ron Howard introduce it as if it is a genuine lost film that Donald Trump himself wrote, directed, choreographed and starred in.
It’s even weirder than it sounds.
It’s the 1980’s, and Donald Trump has released his Best-Seller Autobiography ‘ The Art of the Deal’. Men women and golden haired non-minority children everywhere pore over the man, the myth, the legend. And yet there’s something missing from this virile bigot’s life, a rosebud to his Citizen Kane. That something is the Taj Mahal casino in New Jersey, which Trump regards as infinitely more classy than the original.
As Trump recites his life story to a precocious child, he must utilise every cunning stratagem and trump card learned over a long life of petty lawsuits and ego-driven aggrandizement to gain the Taj Mahal and finally attain self-fulfillment.
Now I should note that the Trump I just described above is the Trump portrayed in the film, who is a near cartoonish personification of the real life personality, which feels like a necessary distinction given Trump’s history of litigation. But one of the most interesting (and terrifying) parts of the film is that the fictional Trump presented in the film is alarmingly close to the real thing. For example, he did destroy priceless art deco friezes in order to construct trump tower, he has voiced his desire to have sex with his daughter, he did sue the NFL and receive only 1$ in damages, and I’m not even sure I need to go into the allegations of racism against him.
Trump is the sort of person who absolutely deserves a movie designed only to mock him, which is an honour available to a select few. And given that this man is running for the position of the Presidency, he seems an ever bigger and more deserving target than usual. It remains to be seen if this movie will have any effect whatsoever on Trump, optimistic viewers might entertain images of Trump exploding with fury as he watches Johnny Depp depp about on screen under a bad toupee, throwing Trumps most embarrassing failures back in his face.
And speaking of Johnny Depp, he deserves full honours for his portrayal of Donald Trump. It’s a fully involved performance, you wouldn’t guess it was Johnny Depp unless you knew to look for him, and he brings a strange energy to the role that matches the tone of the movie perfectly. He lurches about in detailed makeup, reciting perfectly absurd lines with absolute confidence which befits both the comedic tone and the personality of its victim. The best way I can describe it is that he’s not only playing Donald Trump, he’s also playing Johnny Depp who’s playing Donald Trump.
But a good performance doesn’t make for a great film on its own, the question is, is The Art of the Deal: The Movie funny?
Yes, exceedingly so. Partly because there’s an entire team of comedians on hand who hold their own against Depp, partly because the film is saturated in 80’s cheese, and partly because the film hits so close to the real issues that surround Donald Trump and his bid for the Presidency. If you are a fan of Donald Trump, or you are Donald Trump, then you will most likely see the film as a petty attack launched at a self made man who makes the occasional gaffe and stands by his principles. But if you dislike Trump for one of the many thousand of reasons available, then this film will resonate with you, as a team of comedy’s best and brightest invite you to stand with them and laugh at Trump together.
There’s something worrying about that, and I’m aware that I’m influenced by my own opinions of Trump. But the same is true of any viewer who chooses to watch this movie, and perhaps this film will only be capable of objective judgement once the presidential race is over and the Presidency has been decided.
But check it out if you’re so inclined, it’s available for free on Funnyordie.com, and it’s a pretty fun way to spend an hour.