Dear Dictator, written and directed by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse
If one looks at the long list of excellent films in which Michael Caine has dazzled, mesmerized, sparkled and awed, for which he was nominated for an outstanding eleven Golden Globes of which he has won three and five Academy Awards, out of which he has won two, one can wonder about his presence in Dear Dictator.
After Educating Rita, Sleuth, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Get Carter, Hannah and Her Sisters, Alfie, Little Voice, Last Orders, The Cider House Rules, The Quiet American and so many other fabulous roles in worthwhile films…Dear Dictator?
Therefore, you can either dismiss this new feature as unworthy of the phenomenal Michael Caine and the talented Katie Holmes – we can only consider one of her early, magnificent films, Wonder Boys-or say:
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” Hamlet, Shakespeare
Alternatively, think of the John Milton quote: “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven”
Nevertheless, the premise of this film, the narrative and the jokes are so silly as to defy the most tolerant and optimistic viewer…eventually.
The Dear Dictator aka Michael Caine is based on Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, with inspiration from a long list of available tyrants, from Venezuela to countries in Africa and exposes some of their shortcomings.
When questioned, General Anton Vincent admits to having tortured people, adding of course that it was for the benefit of the population…one can do so much in the name of revolution, freedom and other values.
He tells Tatiana Mills that he has a daughter and she became enamored with a member of the opposition, a dissident that was caught and executed, therefore estranging the child from her murderous father.
Tatiana is a teenage girl, living in the land of the free, the most advanced democracy in the world, at least before The Donald arrived, with his admiration for dictators like Putin, Duterte, Xi and others.
She writes letters to the tyrant that she sees in the wrong light, considering him a beacon of revolution, a man with impeccable standards, supporting the poor, fighting capitalist and the oppressing rich, all that this abominable propaganda is spreading in the world, making young men and women vote for the likes of Corbyn, Melenchon and other monsters.
When General Anton Vincent is overthrown, he shows up at the house of his fan in the United States and asks for help in organizing the “revolution”, get his supporters together and fight back to reconquer his Caribbean country.
Darlene Mills is portrayed by Katie Holmes who is excessive and alas, not funny, but nobody has material to amuse anyone, except the aforementioned optimists, willing to be compassionate and smile, or stoned individuals.
The contribution brought to this film by Darlene and her employer, Dr. Charles Seaver is doubtful, even when considering the fact that it may serve to reveal what men can do, when they have the power and make their employees accept all sorts of perverse, humiliating antics.
The dentist likes licking feet and we have quite a few- one, two too many?-scenes that have him involved in his fetish, which results in conflict, then peace, a fight with the abused assistant, but it is repelling rather than amusing.
Perhaps the only smile that can be extracted from this forgettable feature comes when Tatiana Mills tries to disguise the tyrant, who had been on the news, is wanted and would be deported to his country if caught.
Whereas the look of the General Anton Vincent used to be similar to the late autocrat, Fidel Castro, with white beard and hair, after the disguising operation, he is shaved, his hair is black and he has a moustache.
Mea culpa…the follow up to this change can also be entertaining to a certain degree, for we follow the exiled dictator to the…mall, where his teenage friend tries to buy him some clothes- he would make an appearance, for a short video message addressed to his sympathizers in a ridiculous blue shirt.
The hard, macho revolutionary puts on various outfits that make him look preposterous, only to stop at an Adidas jump suit and say:
“This is me”
Fidel Castro appeared in this training costume and to end with, the other “positive” message that can be taken refers to psychology studies that confirm the fact that when one retires- probably it would include tyrants and generals- it is better to keep engaged, to use the Japanese secret of longevity which is called ikigai, keeping busy and avoiding a retirement that is equal to absolute procrastination.