Why can’t we all just get along? In 2021, it feels like the gaps between everyone with an opinion are widening; polarisation is the fancy word for this. With life largely restricted to the four walls of our houses, lockdown or not, it’s a perfect opportunity to drop friendships, demonise casual acquaintances, and turn the levels of hate up to eleven. Stacy Title’s 1995 comedy The Last Supper is one of the few films that specifically addresses that divide; her film examines the yawning chasm in thinking between between Republican and Democrat, a feud that my extensive investigations reveal is on-going to this day.
Not much loved by anyone but me, The Last Supper takes place in a largely one-room setting, and focuses on a group of liberals led by Jude (Cameron Diaz). They have dinner parties once a week, and a surprises guest arrives in the form of Desert Storm veteran Zack (Bill Paxton). Zack is a Holocaust denier, and when he pulls a knife and threatens the group, they manage to overpower and kill him. Having discovered the warm and fuzzy feeling they get from dispatching one of the other side, the group decide to make their executions a weekly event, inviting all manner of conservatives for dinner and a dash of poison. A system of coloured glasses is used so that if the guest makes a convincing case for their survival, they can be spared by the collective will of the group. But the bodies pile up in the cherry orchard outside the garden, it seems like the quality of mercy is significantly strained, at least until the arrival of loquacious and combative conservative talk-show host Norman Arbuthnot (Ron Perlman)….
A good mid-90’s movie at my local flea-pit, The Last Supper has something to offend everyone; the guest shots are one-shot cameos, but manage to cover religious homophobia (Charles Durning), misogyny (Mark Harmon), climate change (Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander), anti-abortion and other still relevant issues du jour. But it’s worth remembering that this is a comedy, and that the liberals are the ones being skewered here; the monster of intolerance is captured in action here, and it’s not lurking down a one-way street. Perlman tears it all up when he arrives, turning the deadly game on its head; what’s refreshing here is that all sides are articulate, and it’s fun to hear the arguments.
It’s human nature to feel that things have never been worse than today; it’s also educational to see that in a recognisably modern world without social media, phones or even computers, people are at each other’s throats like this. Black comedy is the hardest comedy to manage, but Title really pulls this off, with tension, laughs and a great final involving a phone-call at gun-point and the use of The Toys’ A Lover’s Concerto. There’s lots of films designed to make us angry, but few that aim to defuse that bomb; The Last Supper has a minimal reputation, but this likably cartoonish view of the schisms of society has more than a little truth behind it.