It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine, and if so, political comedy may be the antidote to what the last year has so ruthlessly thrown at us. For many, 2020 may have felt like they were trapped in a batting cage with no bat or way to hide while a pitching machine on overdrive threw baseballs at unprecedented speed and quantities. For those hardest hit, the trauma of 2020 will linger for decades to come, but if you share my morbid sense of humour, why not laugh.
That seems to be precisely what the creators of Death to 2020, Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, thought. The made-for-Netflix mockumentary with a twist (instead of using the documentary style to tell a fictional story, they used fictional characters to share real events) allows us to relive the year’s events with a slightly lighter heart.
With actor Samuel L. Jackson, also known for his dramatic reading of the story Go the Fuck to Sleep and the 2020 edition Stay the Fuck at Home, starring as reporter Dash Bracket, one can only assume that it will be well worth the hour and 10 minutes you’ll spend watching. It certainly didn’t disappoint. As other actors such as Hugh Grant playing history professor Tennyson Foss and Lisa Kudrow as non-official spokesperson Jeanetta Grace Susan appeared, they set the comedic tone.
Though some timelines, such as the Australian fires, which are referenced as kicking off 2020 but had actually been going since late 2019, are skewed, I felt some slack was due. After all, this isn’t an actual documentary, and if we can’t seem to force politicians to stick to the truth, how can we hold comedians to a higher standard. Nonetheless, event after event is presented as they recap the worst of last year, and do so in a witty manner that anyone who has lived it can hopefully appreciate.
The mockumentary has all of the necessary players. Beyond the ones already mentioned, there is a scientist no one seems to listen to played by Samson Kayo, a people-hating psychologist played by the hilarious Leslie Jones, a self-centred billionaire played by Kumail Nanjiani, and one unexpected guest: Queen Elizabeth II played by Tracey Ullman.
No one is safe as far as this mockumentary is concerned; Joe Biden is nicknamed a civil war hero, Bernie Sanders an anarchist grandpa, and Donald Trump an experimental pigman. If you were expecting the jokes to be one-sided, you might want to think again. From the far right to the far left, jabs are taken at everyone, sarcasm is available by the barrel full, and no comedic stone is left unturned. A few serious moments along the way are quickly followed by the kind of comedy that is funny in a way that makes you think more than laugh.
Sitting and watching all the events in an hour-long sequence provides the illusion that time is racing, but all the while, it really weighs on viewers as it puts in perspective just how chaotic the year was. However, it can lead to a sense of catharsis as one realizes how much they have lived through and overcome. The entire year is best summed up by a line in Death to 2020 said by Dr. Maggie Gravel (Leslie Jones): “I would say it was a trainwreck and a shit show, but that would be unfair to trains and shit.”
Ending on a positive note and focusing on dreams of vaccine bliss, the mockumentary is left open ended, foreshadowing a possible 2021 version of the film. Of course, everyone watching hopes for a 2021 year so dull that there is no need for a sequel, but only time will tell. Overall, Death to 2020 was well worth the watch. Although it may not shell out the slapstick ha-ha’s that some other movies deliver, its brand of political comedy, writing, and sarcasm are reminiscent of shows such as The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight. It’s definitely a worthy Saturday night watch with junk food to help bury your 2020 feelings.
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