Less than a minute after the start of the hotly anticipated “My Son Hunter,” director Robert Davi and screenwriter Brian Godawa include an 11-word text scroll (with tongue firmly in cheek) that both downsizes and heightens the expectations of what we’re about to see:
“This is not a true story … except for all the facts.”
By doing this, the filmmakers somewhat defuse what is sure to be an onslaught of negative reactions from the mainstream media, its minions, and the dozen or so people who still think Joe Biden is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Had this movie been presented as a straight-out drama with a chronological narrative, it simply wouldn’t have worked. The sheer jaw-dropping, truth-is-stranger-than-fiction nature of the depicted events is so brazen, so self-aggrandizing, so outrageous, and so self-parodying, it all but begs for a satirical treatment.
While preparing to shoot “Dr. Strangelove,” Stanley Kubrick and his co-writer Peter George (adapting his novel “Red Alert”) realized essentially this same thing and brought in humorist Terry Southern to add the comedic flourishes. That film is a classic mostly because it mocks certain dread, and that is indeed the case with “My Son Hunter.” This film is Shakespearean-level tragicomedy along the lines of “Richard III.”
Speaking of Which …
Several stage and screen adaptations of “Richard III” (particularly the 1995 film) employs the breaking of the “fourth wall” (when a character directly addresses the audience), a potentially deal-killing storytelling device the filmmakers employ here to tremendous effect.
The primary “Richard” character here is an unnamed composite Secret Service agent played by Gina Carano (“The Mandalorian”), part of the detail assigned to guard then presidential candidate Joe Biden (John James, “Dynasty”) who also occasionally interacts with his son Hunter (Laurence Fox, in a career-defining performance). Fox founded the Reclaim Party in the UK in order to oppose what he deemed to be “extreme political correctness.” However, the party came up short in the 2021 London mayoral election.
Opening with lampoon news coverage of a Black Lives Matter riot that would make the editors at The Babylon Bee proud, the story gets underway in earnest with Hunter’s arrival at a Los Angeles nightclub where he’s escorted to the “Red Box” VIP lounge. Overflowing with booze, drugs, and scantily clad women, this is where Hunter locks eyes with composite dancer “Kitty” (newcomer Emma Gojkovic), whose real name is Grace Anderson, and who was also present at the BLM event.
After pressing a thick wad of cash into the hand of a pronoun-favoring host-manager, Hunter invites all present to relocate to his bungalow at the infamous Chateau Marmont hotel where the debauchery shifts into overdrive.
In the cold morning light, while still in a fever dream and zonked out of his gourd, Hunter has an imaginary conversation with a little dog that someone brought to his room. Here, instead of actual dialogue between the two, the filmmakers use text balloons that appear in comic books for the exchange. The pocket-sized canine tells him that the revelers are not his friends and to get rid of them. Heeding the dog’s advice, Hunter launches into a bellicose, profanity-riddled tirade, ordering everyone (save for Grace) to vamoose.
With the filmmakers dropping down the pace a gear or two, Hunter and Grace exchange details of their pasts and the narrative takes a surprising, thoroughly unexpected pivot.
Rather than lie about or explain away his past sins and blame others, Hunter declares that he has goofed up big time and delivers a semi-Munchausen purging of his soul containing a litany of indiscretions and bad decisions to a not quite total stranger.
It’s worth noting that everything Hunter tells Grace has been proven to be fact and, at this point, she still doesn’t know his surname.
Most of the second act is set in the back of a limo; there sit father and son. Joe begins calling Hunter to task in the wake of the New York Post article regarding the existence of the “laptop from hell,” arguably the most lethal, ticking time bomb in American political history.
Those on the lookout for some of Joe’s most famous “folksy” and “benign” catchphrases will not be disappointed. Among them are the golden nuggets: “no joke,” “come on, man,” “bologna sandwich,” and “dog-faced pony soldier,” alongside name dropping “Mandela” (Joe’s fabricated meeting with Nelson Mandela), and “Corn Pop” (the skin-crawling details about Joe’s life-guarding days).
Peppered throughout are scenes with Grace “net surfing” alongside one of Hunter’s unnamed bodyguards (Nigerian footballer Franklin Ayodele), who explains to Grace why doing a Google dive on the Biden family might not yield any unsavory details.
It is also during this stretch that flashbacks go into painstaking detail of Hunter’s (and Joe’s) interactions with assorted foreign political leaders and heads of companies. “Quid pro quo” doesn’t begin to capture the level of malfeasance taking place during these clandestine meetings.
Before the naysayers prepare to pounce on perceived “conjecture” on the part of the filmmakers, they should first reference what is contained in “Beautiful Things,” the memoir penned by Hunter Biden. In addition to his drug addiction, Hunter goes into detail regarding his overseas business dealings.
In Their Own Words
It would have been quite easy for Davi and Godawa to weaponize, politicize, or exploit Hunter’s personal foibles for shock value, but they don’t, mostly because they don’t have to. They figuratively stand back and let Biden’s words and actions speak for themselves.
Framing this type of powder-keg material within the framework of satire (and not all of it is satire) might strike some as irresponsible, flip, or ill-advised. But they miss the point.
If the filmmakers had passed judgment on Hunter (and Joe, for that matter) with airs of moral superiority, furrowed brows, or stern finger-wagging, that might have gone over well with some, but this approach would not pass muster with independents and disillusioned moderate Democrats.
There’s a reason why people remember George Carlin, Mort Sahl, Ricky Gervais, and Bill Burr, and movies such as “Being There,” “Dave,” “Wag the Dog,” and the aforementioned “Dr. Strangelove.”
If you want to make a political point stick, comedy in general—and satire specifically—will provide the ideal vessel to achieve the greatest impact and longevity.
“My Son Hunter” will be available to stream on Sept. 7. For details visit MySonHunter.com
‘My Son Hunter’
Director: Robert Davi
Stars: Laurence Fox, John James, Gina Carano, Emma Gojkovic
Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Rating: 5 out of 5