Comedic duo takes over campaign trail in new Netflix original
With such a heated political climate surrounding our current presidential race, the decision of the future commander in chief could be determined by undecided voters. At least this is what is posited by the mockumentary Undecided: The Movie. The fictional story tells of two lonely men, John and Dan, who are undecided in the election. John is disconnected from his father while Dan is disconnected from any hope of a romantic relationship. Both have a cursory understanding of politics and this is what leads the plot along. The two are invited by producers of a reality TV show onto an RV, where they spend a few months going to various political events, trying to determine where to cast their votes. Their lack of political knowledge and opinions allow for hi-jinx with a wide range of political candidates on both sides of the aisle. The movie, made up of small-time actors, opened quietly to little fanfare on Netflix and digital release. Even so, the characters were able to make some waves. The movie has plenty of scenes which take place at actual political rallies and events, some of which are followed by press coverage of the two being kicked out.
John and Dan become seat-fillers at a Jeb Bush event and complain to Bush himself, in the middle of the candidate’s speech, as they had not been paid overtime. A news story shows them being kicked out for telling Donald Trump that he was boring and should start telling jokes again while at his speech. A video was even included from the Hillary Clinton campaign’s social media of the two being allowed to stay by Clinton against security guards’ wishes, their disturbance being that they had removed their shirts in support of the candidate. This kind of real-life relevance gives the movie a sense of wonder, the question of “how did this actually happen?”
It is the same feeling gotten from watching the “Dumb Starbucks” segment of Nathan for You and seeing the cult following the segment garnered. It is also the same reflection of watching HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver send inadequately-dressed fans to Yankees games. Despite itself, the movie is able to be pertinent in the world. While the movie excels at moments of candidate-interrupting outbursts and real-life relevance, its dramatic narrative fails to provide anything meaningful. The two characters are decidedly flat, offering little in the way of a persona, seeming more like members of a Saturday Night Live sketch than actual human beings with any depth.
John wishes his father would accept him and his involvement in this show, but is later falsely led on to believe that his father had approved. Dan likes the producer, Jen, but his social ineptitude keeps him from seeing that she does not like him. These are generic motivations which are upset in the most cliche ways possible. In the process, one of the producers decides that there needs to be more drama in the film, having Jen create a divide between the two, who had started to develop a friendship over the course of the story. They split and get back together in the end. The story has been told so many times that it feels exceedingly trite. At some point, it is stated that they will present their opinions on TV, with the implication that their choice will be largely influential on viewers trying to decide for themselves in the election.
The premise of these two being persuasive enough to convince anyone to vote alongside them is ridiculous, but even so, the story’s use of this information goes beyond that. In a scene that sets the movie on its final leg, one of the producers, Roger, talks on the phone with different “investors,” telling them how he has paid off the two undecided voters which created a rift between them. The rift is created in order to get the investors’ candidate an endorsement. The idea is as ludicrous as the fact that each time he calls someone new, he changes the baseball cap on his head from red to blue and back again, as if it were meant to be a visual indication of the party for which he was being surreptitiously corrupt.
This and the storyline that the film tries to carry feel pointless and do not end up providing any satisfaction. All goes as expected and the move away from the campaign trail is just disappointing. Of the four characters in the film, two are purely there for a been-there-done-that plot. Though Roger may be an attempt to make a half-baked claim about dark money in presidential campaigns, Jen’s presence in the film is overwhelmingly unnecessary. She acts as the object of Dan’s desire, providing nothing important. The rest of her role is seemingly devoted to purely looking into the camera, like Jim Halpert from The Office. The trope is an overdone mainstay of the mockumentary genre and already feels stale after so much overuse.
Undecided: The Movie is ultimately the long form of a Daily Show-style sketch surrounded by some contrived drama. While it succeeds at providing surprisingly entertaining humor in real events, the moment it enters fiction, all enjoyment ceases. In the final weeks of the election, it provides voters a ridiculous retrospective, and an opportunity to laugh or cry when they repeatedly hear the phrase “the next President of the United States...”