My World of Flops Case File #123/My Year of Flops II # 20: I Watched the Test, Loqueesha Dude's Astonishingly Awful, Incredibly Offensive Film
Over the past week a trailer for an upcoming low-budget independent film and filmmaker went viral in the worst possible way, shocking and horrifying an impossibly jaded public with its anachronistic, wildly problematic premise. The film is Loqueesha and the filmmaker is writer, director and producer Jeremy Saville, who also stars as a straight white man with a family who works as a bartender, and consequently is a font of blue collar wisdom, who pretends to be a screamingly offensive, racist caricature of a sassy black woman on a radio show to help pay for his son’s private school tuition and becomes a sensation for “her” no-nonsense combination of attitude and down-home wisdom.
It’s as if Saville pitched the film as "Soul Man but on the radio and somehow a thousand times more racist and worse”, and his financiers, presumably the Devil or Russian hackers out to further destabilize our country through the production of motion pictures that humiliate the United States and its people on the world stage, couldn’t be more excited.
This widely shared, universally mocked trailer prompted all manner of questions. Questions like what the fuck? No, seriously, what the fuck? What could possibly have convinced this doofus that minstrelsy on that level was somehow appropriate or acceptable, ever, but particularly in 2019, when we, as a culture, are a curious, combustible combination of wanton, proudly xenophobic cruelty (the Trump administration and the president’s acolytes) and cultural hyper-sensitivity, particularly in terms of depictions of race, gender and sexuality?
Who was this Jeremy Saville? What hole did he crawl out of? Where did he get the chutzpah to perpetrate something like Loqueesha on an unsuspecting public? I decided to investigate so I checked out the movie’s pretty much joke-free but trite aphorism-rich Twitter feed , which began in 2012 and has produced exactly ten tweets. Apparently Saville considers Tweeting as Loqueesha such an intense, exhausting experience that he can only do it on an annual basis.
2012 was perhaps not coincidentally also the year that Saville’s feature film writing, directing, producing and starring debut The Test was released.
The astonishing thing about The Test is that it may actually be stupider, more hateful, worse and more offensive than Loqueesha. I have seen the Loqueesha trailer more than once. I do not make that claim lightly. Like Loqueesha, The Test is about a schlubby middle-aged white dude played by Saville who perpetrates a deeply offensive, incredibly sexist fiction for suspect reasons that blows up in his face eventually, but not before everyone learns some life lessons. The man is nothing if not an auteur. A shitty, shitty auteur.
The morally repugnant premise of The Test is that the wan charisma vacuum Saville plays is so terrified that his impossibly attractive and loving fiancé Julia (Kelly Sullivan, a real actress much better than the film deserves and its only likable character) will somehow prove herself unworthy of a soggy, sentient loaf of Wonder Bread like himself that he subjects her to a series of humiliating and abusive “tests” with the help of his scuzzy buddies, real MRA types who are always drinking beer, shooting pool, playing b-ball and hanging out in bars and man caves.
The caveman-browed, beady-eyed, schlubby villain of The Test, who the film mistakes for its hero/anti-hero is named Nathan Roberts so it might look like I’m engaging in vitriolic, intense self-hatred when I talk about what a repellent waste of human life Nathan is and how deplorably he behaves in every conceivable sense when in actuality all of my hatred is reserved for Saville, whose film is truly vile and lacking any sense of style.
The titular parade of mental cruelty is the dubious brainchild not of lovestruck Nathan but rather his friends Todd (Stephen Frejek) and Ron (Danso Godon). Todd is the film’s preeminent misogynist, with a spiel straight out of the Men’s Rights handbook, a dead eyed sociopath who looks like Kevin Corrigan’s sinister, Mexican, non-union twin, right down to his Evil Spock facial hair.
Because he’s been hurt in the past, Todd seems personally offended by monogamy, commitment, relationships, healthy relationships, unhealthy relationships and women as a gender.
When Nathan tells his buddies that he’s marrying a beautiful, sexually voracious woman ridiculously out of his league and totally in love with him, Todd becomes enraged and tells his friend of his possible future, “I don’t want to see you wind up one of those weekend dads, picking up your kid at the ex’s while some other dude is diddling her on your dime.”
The ugly, unexamined core of The Test’s rancid misogyny is a free-floating fear that an attractive, sexually desirable woman who marries a schmuck will happily trade up for a handsomer or richer partner at the first opportunity, that all women are inherently distrustful, only as faithful as their options.
Ron and Todd propose some tests. Ron, the film’s only black character, only half-jokingly proposes that he and Todd kidnap Julia, shoot her full of truth serum and “smack her around a little” to see if she’s worthy of marrying a stained couch cushion of a human being like the film’s protagonist.
If he had a soul or an ounce of scruples, Nathan would tell his friends to go fuck themselves and cut them out of his life like the cancerous boils that they are. Nathan gets upset at his friends and their seeming hatred and distrust for his longtime girlfriend, but when he gets home and Julia tells him that a couple they were friendly with are getting divorced after just a year of marriage, he freaks out the way only someone with a mental age hovering around the high single digits would.
The mere existence of divorce within his friend circle is enough to make this “true romantic” abandon any trust he has in the woman he has chosen to spend his life with. He opts in on Ron and Todd’s campaign of psychological torture and manipulation and devotes the rest of the film to being cruel and abusive towards Julia in increasingly extreme ways.
The first test is to determine Julia’s fidelity. The rancid misogynists pay a handsome actor to pretend to be a dashing millionaire who shamelessly hits on Julia while she waits for Nathan at a dinner date, flattering her relentlessly and offering her a vision of life untethered to a man who dresses like a Sears middle manager from the 1980s and seems to despise and fear women down to a cellular level.
Julia resists but that’s not enough for these sick fucks. Next, Nathan pretends to have lost his job for suspected insider trading. It’s not enough that Julia didn’t take the bait and rejected someone who possesses the looks, charm and non-loathsomeness her fiancé desperately lacks. No, Nathan needs to know that Julia will stick with him even if he’s homeless or an ex-convict.
This is a big one for Julia, because much of her dialogue involves gushing about how much she likes spending money, how much she likes spending Nathan’s money, and how excited she is to spend one hundred and fifty thousand dollars on a lavish wedding, complete with a small orchestra.
The unfortunate target of these nasty experiments is understandably upset by the thought of her life partner possibly being a white-collar criminal, and spending years in jail but she sticks with the deeply unlikable goober all the same. The first two tests are cruel and awful but at least they have a certain logic. A misogynistic, paranoid, ugly logic, but logic all the same.
The next test, however, veers wildly away from even the fuzziest logic and sanity into a sort of free-form madness that suggests what The Room might look and feel like if it were a gimmicky romantic comedy written by a deeply stupid Neil Labute.
The degenerates then arrange for Julia to be fired from her job to test whether the stress of her wealthy fiancé losing his job and possibly going to jail, followed by losing her job for no reason in quick succession would be so great that she would do something to prove herself unworthy of a flaming garbage fire of a human being like Nathan.
Julia’s male boss is happy to help by firing, then hiring her back in accordance with Nathan’s wishes, because he’s Todd’s frat brother and thrice-divorced and dudes in this movie are always happy to set everything aside to help a fellow man, even a complete stranger, psychologically torment an implausibly oblivious woman. Heck, God HIMSELF seems ready, even eager, to lend a hand in the gang’s cruel head games with Julia.
Julia somehow “passes” this test as well but Nathan remains unconvinced of Julia’s worth as a human being. The Test reminded me of Joan Crawford’s advice guide, My Way of Life and Marabel Morgan’s Total Woman, both of which I have written about here, in its upside-down world where women must be perfect—gorgeous, without an ounce of cellulite, endlessly understanding and empathic, yet asking nothing in return—to prove themselves worthy of lazy sub-mediocrities who only need to have a job, bathe occasionally and refrain from rape or murder to “earn” their partner’s undying love and devotion.
Nathan gets so paranoid and extreme in his abuse of his wife-to-be that his crazed zeal begins to freak out even the psychotic woman-haters who encouraged him to treat his relationship like a cross between Candid Camera and a CIA psychological warfare campaign. Nathan has someone pretend to rob him and Julia at home to see whether she will happily volunteer to take a bullet so that her future husband might live to horrifically mistreat other women.
That’s somehow still not enough so Nathan pretends to be in a coma to see whether Julia will stick by him when he’s just barely hanging on for dear life. Impossibly, even that is not enough for Nathan, so he feigns amnesia and spends whole weeks pretending to be a brain-damaged man-child with no idea who Julia is to, again, prove that she’s not the kind of superficial, gold-digging hussy who would leave a man if there was a very real chance he would never regain his memory and would spend the rest of his days a brain-damaged stranger.
The Test seems to understand that its protagonist goes way too far but it seems to labor under the delusion that he’s doing bad things for the right reasons and that underneath all of his psychotic criminal behavior lies a good heart.
The Test rewards Nathan for his behavior with a gala wedding to the kind of beauty a schmuck like like him would generally need to pay, and pay handsomely, to have sex with, but just when it seems like the creeps’ impossibly cruel, just plain impossible scheme will succeed Julia very conveniently overhears Ron spilling the beans, describing the plan in elaborate detail to another man (bros over hos!) within earshot of Julia despite Nathan talking how important it is to keep the “tests” a secret literally the scene before.
Nathan receives his richly deserved comeuppance. Julia angrily confronts him and he loses all status in society. Yet the movie unconscionably chooses to give him a happy ending when Julia, after pining desperately for Nathan for six solid months from the inside of a bottle of red wine, tells him that she’s going on a date at their favorite restaurant with the handsome actor from the first test and Nathan shows up and threatens to commit suicide by throwing himself in front of a speeding car or bus. It is at that point that Julia “realizes” that she truly loves this awful man and because she got back at Nathan a little by flaunting her date with the actor to him, she is as bad as he is, if not worse.
That’s one of the film’s concluding insults to women, and the audience, and humanity. Nathan plays the “I’m so sad I’ll kill myself if you don’t love me” card, an incredibly manipulative and immoral ploy and the movie sees it as a gesture of mad love and not an incredibly abusive, horrible thing to do to someone you only ever seem to treat with unfathomable cruelty.
These crazy kids get their fantasy wedding and we’re left with a feeling so ugly and empty it’s borderline indescribable.
Nathan Roberts deserves to get the girl and a happy ending in The Test about as much as Ted Bundy does in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. It is nothing short of cruel for Saville to spare his audience the crowd-pleasing, cathartic release of a city bus rolling over his character’s skull, pulverizing his brain and reducing him to a bloody spot on the pavement in the process in favor of the least deserved happy ending in film history.
It’s not a positive sign in a romantic comedy when you’re rooting for the male romantic lead to die a bloody, violent, humiliating death rather than get the girl.
Despite spending the last 85 minutes torturing and manipulating a woman infinitely better than a piece of shit like him deserves, Julia forgives Nathan and agrees to spend the rest of her life with him because, in her reasoning and seemingly the film’s as well, she got mad that her fiancé was a woman-hating sociopath into sick mind games and told him she’d be going on a date at a restaurant they used to go to.
Julia tells Nathan, “I failed your test. I’m worse than you” before professing her love for the man who has subjected her to the trials of Job out of petty insecurity.
Those are not equal transgressions. What Nathan and then Julia do to each other are not equally bad. What Nathan does is beyond understanding and forgiveness. He deserves to be banished from society. She got a little pissy because she found out she’d been devoting her life to the worst man in the world. We’re talking a jay-walking violation versus serial killing.
After Jimmy Savile’s crimes were uncovered and he was posthumously cancelled, a horrified world assured itself, “At least the Saville name can’t possibly be disgraced any further” and a cocky Jeremy Saville was all “hold my beer.”
Loqueesha may look impossibly bad to people who haven’t seen The Test. For anyone cursed to have suffered through the cinematic atrocity that is Saville’s directorial debut, however, its badness looks not just plausible but inevitable.
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