Mister America's star, Tim Heidecker, is a deeply weird dude (as anyone familiar with the ancient history of Jefferton or Tim and Eric can attest).
But since teaming up with Gregg Turkington in 2012, he's shed much of the hyperactive strangeness of his earlier projects and achieved a subdued brand of absurdity that can be hard to distinguish from reality.
This is the world of On Cinema at the Cinema, which Heidecker redefines in each intro. For instance: "A web series dedicated to movies and reviewing movies and what's coming out this week, and whether or not you should go see them, or whether or not you just stay away and stay home and do something else… or watch the football game." It's a distorted version of the Siskel and Ebert model of a movie review series, wherein the stars are wildly incompetent narcissists, locked in toxic codependence, growing to hate each other over the course of years—constantly bickering and frequently distracted from their supposed task by all manner of personal and medical drama.
Heidecker and Turkington play caricatures of themselves that remain just this side of believable. Heidecker's politically reactionary, endlessly ambitious alter-ego reached new heights of reality blurring in 2017 with the spin-off The Trial of Tim Heidecker, a livestream of a six-day trial for the supposed negligent homicide of 20 people poisoned by proprietary vape pens (predating the current vaping scare by two years)—though Heidecker describes his victims as having "overdosed on medicine that was tainted by China." Mister America is a follow-up mockumentary that brings On Cinema at the Cinema to… the cinema for the first time, and tells the story of Heidecker's campaign to unseat Vincent Rosetti—"Rosetti the rat"—the San Bernardino DA who put him on trial.
Mister America - Official Trailer youtu.be
Heidecker travels around San Bernardino, struggling with his Apple Watch in a focus-grouped beard and a flowing suit that might have been tailored for an obese, '90s era Steve Harvey. He runs his campaign out of a temporary hotel room residence that he shares with Toni Newman—his lover, campaign chair, and the sole dissenting juror who saved him from a murder conviction. Throughout the film, Heidecker interacts with real citizens, soliciting signatures for his ballot petition, hanging "WE HAVE A RAT PROBLEM!" campaign signs in restaurants and delis, and espousing his abhorrent politics, all while dogged by his business partner/nemesis, Gregg Turkington—who insists that the documentary is actually about himself and his vast collection of VHS tapes.
Fans of the webseries will no doubt find a lot to enjoy about this longform addition to the On Cinema universe and its bleeding of fiction and reality. People who are new to the series will likely find much of the experience alienating, but if they can stick with it, they may find some catharsis in this story of failed political insurgency.
Heidecker is the outsider who believes that his mere existence outside of the political system qualifies him to reform it completely. He promises voters a 100% reduction in crime—with a zero-tolerance, instant life-sentence approach to all infractions—and a return to the good old days of the 1950s and '60s for "the original San Bernardino people." He stands in for a thousand Trump acolytes in a thousand local elections across the country, and it's a joy to see him devolve into violent outbursts and alcoholism as his campaign is stymied by incompetence and egotism.
In his drunken concession to Rosetti, Heidecker both acknowledges his guilt in the vape-poisoning case—taunting Rosetti that he failed to get a conviction despite having "the smoking gun"—and insists on the DA's corruption—attributing every misstep in the campaign to Rosetti's interference. Watching this brand of crass hypocrisy go unrewarded for 90 minutes provides some small relief and escape from the reality of our collapsing empire. I give it four bags of popcorn and one poisonous vape pen.