The good thing about a movie called Misogynist is that viewers are already prepared to watch piggish male characters take advantage of vulnerable females, which prevents all the politically correct whistleblowers from sharpening their spears as the movie starts. Michael Matteo Rossi’s gender-exploiting thriller dares to challenge Fifty Shades Of Grey for anti-romantic dominance, and while it’s an ambitious attempt, sleek camerawork isn’t enough to save this rushed, underwhelming web of deception. Running at a brisk 77 minutes, Rossi struggles to pace what feels like only three short scenes glued together by some marshmallow fluff that’s lost its flavor. Misogynist is a bit of a premature squirt, leaving us as unsatisfied as the poor, mistreated women who are left with nothing but a regretful night and a story better forgotten.
Jonathan Bennett (of Mean Girls fame) plays Harrison, a chauvinist guru’s most promising apprentice. While anticipating his own wedding with a religious virgin, he helps his mentor Trevor (Jon Briddell) groom a new set of recruits, but after the training is over and Harrison spends his first night as a newlywed, doubt begins to form in the young man. At one time in his life, Harrison would have followed Trevor blindly into the battlefield of love, but are his manipulative teachings nothing more than a lunatic’s ravings? As Harrison loses more and more faith, he starts to believe that Trevor might not be the savior he invested in, but can he walk away from a lifestyle that promises different women for every night of the week?
Misogynist is a narcissistic take on the brutality of men and the dominance of evil alpha males, and this horror is bluntly driven home by Trevor’s teachings. According to the self-anointed female expert, women only want three things – to be “f@cked, hurt, and controlled.” From a “real man’s” perspective, women are lower than us. They’re injured, vulnerable beings who men are there to help, and then screw over when their usage runs out. Driving home the film’s theme, Trevor’s students are taught that all women want a man to put them in their place, as they’re nothing but servants waiting for orders from a strong, assertive brute. These are the lessons that are meant to establish Trevor as this deprecating deity who’s the antithesis of anything considered respectable, but that would require learning and understanding from Rossi’s story – something that doesn’t exist.
It’s Harrison’s Dr. Jekyll performance that leaves much to be desired, as he explodes in a self-hating blast after devoting years of his life to Trevor’s abusive ways. Bennett’s character is always hurtling towards an inevitable implosion, but without established motives or expressed emotions, Harrison’s final outburst comes off as an awkwardly abrupt tonal one-eighty.
There’s no building to a volcanic eruption, as Rossi never hints at lingering moments of doubt forming in his prized pony. Misogynist attempts to shock the world when Trevor’s teachings backfire on a man who still holds a sliver of heart, but the pacing is all wrong. One minute Harrison and Trevor are joking and demeaning their sexual conquests, yet the next they’re at each other’s throats. Tension is hard to come by, and just when Harrison’s struggles seem to be going somewhere dramatic, it’s all over with a swift and unsatisfying bang.
But for a bunch of women-hating men, the performances Briddell and Bennett are able to achieve together aren’t half bad. Their abusive tendencies reek of wickedness, and while the duo’s actions are anything but wholesome, their treatment of women ties a knot in the pit of our stomachs. Men are portrayed as absolute dogs – which becomes begrudgingly acceptable in the grand scheme of things – but Misogynist fails to establish woman as strong combative forces to the domineering vagrants that are being molded in Tevor’s underground sexism tutorial.
It’s the nature of such a submissive beast, but none of the female actors are really given a chance to shine – they’re only there to be abused. Danielle Lozeau plays Misogynist‘s most sensible feminine mind, and by sensible, I mean she plays a naive twenty-three year old virgin who marries a man she knows nothing about. Her foolishness presents Harrison with his inevitable rethinking, but between Trevor’s warped control issues and Harrison’s distracting flip, Lozeau’s victimized status is called into question almost instantly. Don’t get me wrong, each misogynistic minute paints the male characters as perfect date-rape candidates, but Lozeau’s character (April) embodies an almost soap-opera-esque, fairy-tale Princess persona that doesn’t provide a true comparison to Harrison’s gender psychosis.
Misogynist feels like a pro-feminism PSA that warns of the hidden motivations of the male sex, schooling wide-eyed young girls on the horrible games men play just to get a little action. There’s a major time-crunch at play that prevents any sort of intensified pacing from building up, which makes for an ending that comes to a screeching halt, but even more uninteresting are the females portrayed as victims. As the credits rolled, I wasn’t quite sure what the film’s final purpose was, besides confirming that the world is one seriously f#cked up place. Misogyny sill runs rampant throughout our society, but by making no new statements about the perverse epidemic (on either side), Misogynist is just a hateful tutorial about “joining the club” that’s wrapped in a too-tightly-wound thriller.
Misogynist is far too slight to say anything monumental, which makes its sick view towards woman weightless and hateful in the face of redundant victimization.