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First Look Review - Misogynist

After being dumped by his girlfriend, a young man befriends a mysterious pickup artist.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Michael Matteo Rossi

Starring: Jonathan Bennett, Eve Mauro, Tracey E. Bregman, Jon Briddell


Warning: This review contains discussion of plot elements.

Women, eh? What are they like? Bumping their heads against the glass ceiling, protesting against page 3 and FGM, having ideas of their own. Moreover, why, WHY, is it that they spend so long getting ready, etc? What a bunch of fusspots. As Freud reputedly asked, what is it they want? He couldn’t figure them out and he was a doctor! But here comes Misogynist, a noiry thriller which is based upon a true story and billed by its first time director Michael Matteo Rossi as ‘a smart, edgy movie guys will enjoy in this age of perceived hyped up feminism and emasculation, or as an antidote to all the Fifty Shades mania’ Finally! Someone is sticking up for the most put upon of all social groups: Western adult males. Will this film finally give us the answers we’ve been searching for? Will it show those ‘hyped up feminists’ a little something about something? More importantly, will it be any good?
Harrison (Jonathan Bennett) is an average guy whom we first see grizzling like a toddler with bad gums following his dumping via a letter from his now ex-girlfriend. Since Harrison is the sort of guy who reads and emotionally reacts to his mail in public, he is happened upon and comforted by a suave stranger, Trevor (Jon Briddell). Trevor is such a cool guy that he lights poor wickle Harrison’s cigarette. You need conditioning, is Trevor’s instinctive take, dismissing the letter as typical feminine injustice, and promising that he can get his new friend back in the game. Harrison immediately falls in (platonic-ish) love with Trevor, as do all the ‘guys’ watching. It’s like he’s saying everything we’ve ever thought, right fellas? We cut to three years later, and Harrison and Trevor are living the dream, administering underground PUA courses to select beta males- teaching them how to, charmingly, ‘juggle pussies’. We follow the violent extremities of a particularly gung-ho session, wherein we see Trevor basically winding these wimps up; slapping them about and extorting them to rape his girlfriend Cheryl, present at the gathering in a similar capacity as the prizes on Bullseye used to be: just look at what you could have won (Cheryl is played by a hugely dignified Alia Raelynn, and she earns every cent). To me, Trevor’s methods seemed a bit confusing and counterproductive but we’re repeatedly told how brilliant he is, so he must have something. However, the men who have attended his session leave more bruised and demoralised than if they’ve been on the receiving end of a particularly manic 50 Shades sesh, so this specific plot point does remain a bit of a mystery.
As is the identity of Harrison’s fiancé, and even more mystifying (to Harrison) is the question of why she hasn’t leapt into bed with him over the last three years of courtship. Perhaps she doesn’t like him, or perhaps there’s some fundamental mistrust of his attitude to women, or perhaps dopey and naïve April is a much of a one dimensional character as Harrison and Trevor; and exists merely to provide conflict for the guyz. She is the only character that is in anyway sympathetic though, so perhaps, with the film presenting her plight in such a grim manner, Misogynist isn’t a movie that challenges ‘hyped up feminism’ after all, but in fact supports it; although this ambiguity is part of the problem. We know that we’re meant to take Misogynist seriously as it opens with a quote from Samuel Johnson (‘Men know that women are an over match for them, and therefore they choose the weakest or the most ignorant’) but what exactly we’re meant to take from the film is unclear. As thriller, yes, it is at times captivating (and never boring), and the character dynamics aspire to the psychological stand offs of, say, David Mamet’s more claustrophobic works, but in terms of ideology we’re left wide open. If the film is anti-woman hating (and, in fairness, the film’s title is Misogynist, after all, and not Cool Guy You Want To Be Like) then why end the film with a pumped up credit sequence which features naked and near naked go-go dancers cavorting in a manner that invites our lascivious voyeurism? I’m all for a film having a sense of purpose, and, of course, that philosophy not coinciding with how I may see matters, but if I am going to be lectured, then either way I’d like to know what I’m being schooled about.
Misogynist’s Fight Club fetish is evident in its vivid lighting, striking camera work and shady themes concerning masculine identity, but it lacks that film’s sense of reflexive absurdity. There are interesting features here, but ultimately, the film’s anger becomes overwhelming (there is only so often you can hear one character threaten another with sodomy, or variants of, before it gets slightly absurd).
As stated, Misogynist opens with a Samuel Johnson quote, and in the spirit of scholarly symmetry this review will too end with a missive from Sam Johnson; Sam Taylor-Johnson, that is, director of 50 Shades of Grey and a woman; ‘I love life. I think it's fantastic. Sometimes it deals hard things, and when it deals great things, you have to seize them’. Misogynist: it’s not great, but it is hard. Seize it if you’re that way inclined.




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