The Integrity of Joseph Chambers: Film Review | Tribeca 2022
(3/5) A worthwhile if meandering examination of a specific American, Southern brand of toxic masculinity and the sheer ridiculousness of it.
THRILLERDRAMAFILM FESTIVALTRIBECAMOLLY KUSILKA
The Integrity of Joseph Chambers follows a husband and father played by Clayne Crawford, determined to prove he is a southern manly man by embarking into the woods to hunt all alone, and things go horribly awry. At the start, his wife (Jordana Brewster) tries to convince him this is ridiculous, but he stubbornly insists that this quest is necessary. He starts his mission by going to borrow a gun from his neighbor since he doesn’t have his own nor a license to hunt. This is the first instance of a sequence of many horrible decisions, and a particularly harrowing depiction of how easily you can obtain a gun - a man who clearly has no idea how to operate a gun effortlessly waltzes to his neighbor’s house to borrow one.
When he enters the hunting grounds, it’s clear we’re in the presence of a complete idiot who has no idea what he’s doing. The sound effects and score do a great deal of heavy lifting in conveying just how deluded he is. There’s a moment early on when he pretends to be a pitcher, throwing rocks, and we hear imaginary cheers and the ambient sounds of a baseball stadium, as he imagines he’s pitching for a pro team. The soundtrack also utilizes animal noises, which creates a chilling synth that crosses reality and illusion, reflecting the insanity of his mental state. Anyone who believes they need to assert their manliness and do so by going into the woods alone to hunt is not someone who is mentally and emotionally stable, and this becomes evident right away.
It’s hard to divulge what happens next without spoiling the plot of the film, but I can say that he does something extremely idiotic, and we spend the rest of the film with him on the hunting grounds as he deals with the consequences of what he has done. I do think this bulk of the film begins to drag because frankly, this man is as likable as a piece of cardboard, and spending time alone with him in the woods grows tiring. But the film ends with a compelling conclusion, which also touches on the psychological ramifications of what he’s done. I do wish we delved more into the aftermath after his return home, specifically in regards to his wife, who unfortunately is reduced to the classic wife at home supporting character.
I appreciate what this film is saying more than the film itself. It satirizes macho masculinity and mocks the notion of manliness with a level of hilarity and ridiculousness that I found bold, new, and fun. My main issue is that I think it could’ve been edited down; we dwell too much on his time on the hunting ground dealing with this catastrophe he gets himself into, and he’s not a full and complex enough character to be able to command the screen on his own for such a long duration of the film. He feels more like a hollow stand-in for every man who thinks he has to prove his manliness and assumes a macho persona. Ultimately, I think this was a worthwhile examination of a specific American, Southern brand of toxic masculinity and the sheer ridiculousness of it.