Vague Visages’ Hello Dankness review contains minor spoilers for Soda Jerk’s 2022 movie. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.
How do you sum up the political, social and cultural upheaval of the Donald Trump years? Soda Jerk, an Adelaide-based artist duo, answered this question with a collage film comprised of audio clips and spliced moments from film and TV that create a surprisingly cohesive narrative of how a country lost its mind.
Hello Dankness doesn’t start with Soda Jerk’s unique brand of Frankenstein-esque scenarios, but rather with something that instantly cements the viewer in the mindset of the world that existed in the early Trump years, specifically the 2017 Kylie Jenner Pepsi advertisement.
Hello Dankness Review: Related — Know the Cast & Characters: ‘We Have a Ghost’
Lasting a painful two minutes and 48 seconds, the instantly infamous short film has a diverse group of young protestors, from photographers to cellists, who hold up signs with brave slogans such as “Join the Conversation” and “Love.” Jenner joins the protest and bravely grabs a can of Pepsi to share with the very much unarmed riot police — the non-existent threat of violence is diffused. By using this as a cold open with no editing, manipulation or further commentary, Soda Jerk immediately centers Hello Dankness’s approach to political satire: a relentless refusal to take anything seriously.
It could be easy to get lost in a mess of self-referential and increasingly bizarre scenarios where songs like “Dicks Out for Harambe” are blasted from the Wayne’s World (1992) car stereo, and Hello Dankness does indeed disappear into an extremely online in-joke. However, a carefully constructed narrative is developed through a recurring depiction of a suburb street that begins in the pre-election calm of 2016. During a brief silent cinema-style prologue, Tom Hanks’ Ray Peterson from The Burbs (1989) is introduced as a Bernie Sanders bro. Meanwhile, Annette Bening’s Carolyn Burnham from American Beauty (1999) emerges as a Hillary Clinton fan. At the end of the street, outside a Boo Radley ramshackle house, is a large sign declaring support for Trump. Hello Dankness loosely follows these characters’ journeys, structured around six acts that often end with a musical number that ranges from “Springtime for Hitler” to “Do You Hear the People Sing?”
Hello Dankness Review: Related — Soundtracks of Television: ‘Red Rose’
With Hello Dankness, Soda Jerk is less than subtle. The duo’s experimental manipulation of beloved characters, films and cultural touchstones epitomize the relatively recent phenomenon of Twitter threads and articles that ask which of Friends’ protagonists would have voted for Trump, or who out of the King of the Hill characters would have taken part in the January 2021 United States Capitol attack. It is easier to have these conversations when characters are framed through the comforting narratives of beloved TV shows and films, less so when those questions are projected onto our own friends, colleagues and families.
Hello Dankness Review: Related — Soundtracks of Cinema: ‘Knock at the Cabin’
Through sheer technical editing brilliance that sculpts a world that is both recognizable and strange, Soda Jerk created a truly weird and engaging reflection of the uncanny valley that was the Trump era. To quote Todd Solondz’s Wiener Dog (2016) — which is cited in the film — the directors depict America as “a big fat elephant, drowning in a sea of despair.”
Rose Dymock (@rosedymock) is a freelance film critic and culture writer from the UK. Her interests are multilingual cinema, thrillers and British film. She is the festivals editor for Screen Queens and has bylines at Film Inquiry, Little White Lies and Zavvi.
Hello Dankness Review: Related — Know the Cast & Characters: ‘Sharper’