Boy, did I want to like My Son Hunter. I admire the hell out of Laurence Fox, the British star of the TV series Lewis who plays Hunter Biden. Drummed two years ago out of decent showbiz society after refusing to agree that Meghan Markle was a victim of racism, Fox went on to form the Reclaim Party and the Bad Law Project. I’ve also been entertained by American actor Robert Davi, who directed My Son Hunter. And I fully respect the desire of these and other people who dissent from Hollywood orthodoxy to forge a new nonprogressive cinema. But I can’t bring myself, alas, to praise the film itself (which is Breitbart’s first cinematic release, with a screenplay by Brian Godawa based on a story by Phelim McAleer).
Set mostly in and around what’s supposed to be the Chateau Marmont in Beverly Hills, where Hunter is on one of his coke-fueled sex sprees, this plodding tale consists in large part of long dialogue scenes — first between Hunter and a fictional hooker named Grace Anderson (Emma Gojkovic), then between Hunter and Joe (John James), then between Hunter and Grace again. I say dialogue, but a lot of it is expository monologue by Hunter, who, after being informed by Grace that she doesn’t care about her father, replies: “That’s sad. I love my dad.” He then serves up his backstory: “My sister and my mommy died in a car accident when I was little.… And then it was just me and Beau and Dad against everything. Against the world.” Then Beau died. “It’s not the same since my brother died…. Four years ago. You would’ve liked him. He was the good one. He was the conscience of the family. After 9/11 he joined the National Guard…. Everyone thought he was going to be the president … Now I’m all Dad has left from Mommy. And I just want to make him proud.”
Fox is a very gifted and sensitive actor, and (despite a wobbly American accent) pulls this stuff off as well as anyone else could. But why not show us something — anything — instead of telling us absolutely everything? “I am the one who brings in the money,” Hunter explains to Grace. “I am a drug addict….. I divorced my wife. And then I fell in love with his [Beau’s] wife.… Grief brings you together.… My brother would never have f***ed my wife.” The film is written, and acted, as if we’re meant to feel sympathy for this character. Yet every now and then the pathos briefly gives way and the same material is played for laughs, as if one of the Airport movies turned every so often into Airplane! You get the impression that the filmmakers had two entirely different concepts for this picture and decided to go with both of them.
At the movie’s center is a scene between Joe and Hunter set in the backseat of a parked car. Joe has come to Beverly Hills to grill Hunter about the contents of his laptop, which is now in the hands of the FBI, and to chide him for his debauched lifestyle. “You’re my son,” Joe says. “You’re an addict. So you lie compulsively. I get it.” But I don’t get it. Isn’t the real-life Joe Biden also a compulsive liar? Isn’t this the guy who had to quit a presidential bid because he was caught stealing Neil Kinnock’s life story? Joe also faults Hunter for not being like Beau. “I think of your brother’s character, his integrity. You dishonor his memory.” What? Character? Integrity? Did the Joe Biden we know ever say anything remotely like this? It makes no sense, of course: in real life, Joe has cruelly exploited Hunter’s dissolute character by making him his bagman.
But the car sequence gets even worse. What began as a basically serious exchange between a loving but disappointed father and a contrite, self-hating son turns into sheer farce: Joe says “erection” instead of “election” — a flub that’s accompanied by a cartoonish “B-O-I-N-G!!!!!” sound effect — then tosses out famous lines from the Biden archives (“dog-faced pony soldiers”; Hunter as “the smartest man I know”) on the apparent assumption that simply quoting such lines will win the audience’s laughter and applause; then, apropos of nothing in particular, Joe says: “I could be out in the middle of Fifth Avenue with Tara Reid and the media would still be talking about Trump’s grabbing pussy!” We then swing back to seriousness with this heartbreaking remark by Hunter: “It should have been me that got cancer. Or died in the crash with Mommy.” But from there it’s right back to sheer absurdism with this from Joe: “I’ve suffered a lot more than you…. I attended a black college. I marched with Nelson Mandela. I’ll never forget Corn Pop. He was a bad dude. He wouldn’t wear a bathing cap in the pool so I faced him down with a six-foot chain.” (READ MORE: Hunter Biden Cashed In to Fuel His Drug and Sex Habits)
On occasion, the film cuts away from these long dialogue sequences to scenes in which Hunter’s black sidekick, Tyrone (Franklin Ayodele), tells Grace he’s “the black face of white supremacy” and a sardonic Secret Service agent (Gina Carano), speaking into the camera, informs us: “I’m just a fictional character.” We see Hunter painting his canvases and get flashbacks to China and Ukraine, where Joe (wearing a Superman cape) and Hunter cut shady deals with various oligarchs. Then there are the Tarantino-inspired touches: at one point, the words “FACT CHECK” in flashing red letters suddenly fill the screen; and the ending, as in Inglorious Basterds, deviates from actual history to flirt with wish fulfillment. At one point, Hunter and Grace playfully exchange terminology from the woke playbook. Grace: “Conspiracy theorists … Russian disinformation.” Hunter: “White supremacists.” At such moments, it can feel as if the filmmakers misplaced the script and shot the scenarist’s raw notes.
Such great material, and yet how dramatically inert the results! Yet sometimes one gets the impression that Davi & co. are actually trying to do something ambitious here. The bizarre tonal shifts reminded me once or twice of movies like Derek Jarman’s 1991 adaptation of Marlowe’s Edward II, in which the medieval and modern worlds clash and Annie Lennox sings a Cole Porter ballad. Then there’s the fact that Fox belongs to an acting family famous for playing Shakespearean roles. Are we meant to see his Hunter Biden as a contemporary version of Prince Hal? The Henry IV plays, after all, mix high dynastic drama with low comedy, and that’s precisely what’s going on here. The difference is that Shakespeare’s character portrayal was consistent. In My Son Hunter, alas, the problem is that Joe Biden is both Henry IV and Falstaff. Or maybe the problem is that I didn’t do a few lines of cocaine before watching the film.