Mister America is not for everyone but it may be Heidecker's magnum opus
By Chase Hutchinson
The most recent work from one of the world's most prominent absurdists, Tim Heidecker, is one that can loosely be classified as a satire of the recent slew of documentaries about the behind the scenes of political campaigns such as the brilliant Knock Down The House or the less brilliant Running with Beto (sorry Robert, go stand on a table some more). However, I think it is much more an extension of the narrative that Heidecker has built up over his most recent projects. The most clear tie in is to The Trial of Tim Heidecker and what can be hilariously called the On Cinema at the Cinema universe. The story picks up with Heidecker running for district attorney in San Bernardino to get back at Vincent Rosetti. Why does he want to do this? Rosetti attempted to prosecute him for the deaths of 20 people at a music festival that Heidecker had created. Heidecker managed to represent himself and convince one juror to hold out in order to avoid jail time. That win seems to have gone to his head and he has now launched this long shot campaign.
The story of him attempting to fictionally run for DA is largely pointless and (spoiler) doomed to fail. The best moments come from his interactions in the community as he goes door to door attempting to gather signatures to get on the ballot, put up signs, as well as hold a town hall. Heidecker has developed this character over many years so while anyone can jump into seeing this film cold and still get a few laughs, it is most humorous to know what all this is drawing from. There are certain revelations and developments about the lone juror who held out in his trial that were perhaps the best jokes to come out of the story. It also feels like this is an end of an era for Heidecker. Yes, he will still be doing his web series and likely other projects. However, this feels like a sendoff to several different timelines. This sendoff is done in a way that only Heidecker can: with lots of buffoonery, incompetence, alcohol, and utter failure. Which I can say that I probably wouldn't want it any other way.
There are some problems that might limit people from enjoying it
The question that seems to be the most divisive is about whether the film leans too much on his own mythology to stand alone and be good by itself. As I said earlier, I don't think you will get the same enjoyment out of the experience if you don't have some idea of the larger picture. Many of the jokes are referential to the various storylines that have already been established but also many jokes do work on their own in this contained story. The visual gag of WE HAVE A RAT PROBLEM in unsuspecting restaurant owners' windows is fantastic and one of the more clever jokes the film pulls on the public. The problem with mockumentaries where the butt of the joke is just random people is it can reach a tipping point where it feels too mean spirited (looking at you Who Is America) but it never goes beyond that line. If anything, there are minimal interactions with Heidecker messing with strangers in public. Whether this is because he is too recognizable to do this too often or if they wanted to focus more on the plot itself, I'm not sure. Either way, the story is a funny ride and there is something for everyone even if you don't have knowledge of the full scope of the story.
Secondarily, the film does have some jokes that feel prescient and it isn't without something to say. But it really isn't that deep and the jokes will always come first. With that being said, the entire storyline about vaping deaths, while drawn from years ago in the trial portion of the timeline, still feels strange and funny in the context of recent states cracking down on vaping. That Heidecker is clearly guilty and is still mounting this campaign even as his community hates him is the type of narcissism mixed with hubris that makes him the exact type of person to attempt to jumpstart a political career. He often repeats go to phrases that begin to have less and less meaning such as him being "tough on crime" that certainly begins to create an absurdist picture of these types of macho candidates who are all bluster with no substance. He even says the phrase "kangaroo court" to describe his own legal troubles which is hard not to chuckle at the foresight this bit has. Still, the story doesn't have a target or argument if you are looking for a deeper satire.
The ending and every scene reuniting Heidecker with Turkington is brilliant
The ending managed to wrap things up rather well and establish how Heidecker's narcissism is still a driving force which makes his ultimate failure that much more funny as well as cathartic. That is also perhaps why every scene that has Gregg Turkington in it is a standout. The conflict between the two is nice especially where most other people (assuming they are real people) just defer to him and take him at his word. Turkington, however, has a history with Heidecker in their many years of working together and wants to confront him about it. It seems he wants to invade his documentary and make it all about his work with the film archive. It is in these interviews and scenes that many of the best laughs are to be found. He is still as deadpan and flat as ever in his performance which make it all the more brilliant in contrast to Heidecker's over the top energy. The town hall confrontation is the moment where these differences are the funniest with Turkington occasionally muttering a defaming statement under his breath and Heidecker flying off the handle. It's good stuff and could have even gone on for longer.
The conclusion of the Heidecker's (short lived) political career is probably for the best as he has probably exhausted all there is to do within this genre and storyline. It is something that may lead to another strange plotline with this character but for now, I think that this is a satisfying conclusion. Although I may be wrong in that a new project will pop up based on a throwaway line from a random scene towards the end. That was, after all, the origin point for this film in the first place with Heidecker saying in a press conference at the end of his trial that maybe he would challenge Rosetti. So while Heidecker didn't up really having a final showdown with Rosetti, there may be more in store for him in a different vein. Maybe I can finally get the Decker movie crossover where he has to take down Rosetti as his character from that show. One can only dream. However, for now, this is a fitting end to the story of Tim Heidecker.