Written and directed by Jules Lipoff, co-written by Sam Watson, when Derek (Billy Klein) uses a racist slur with his Black co-workers, he is fired but given the option to keep his job if he participates in an experimental trial for a pill that cures racism. Also starring: Johnath Davis, Tatiana St. Phard and Page Peter Wilson.
It’s an astute idea that casual racists would more than likely find themselves that lazy they’d rather take a pill that allegedly fixes their attitude than taking the time to understand, listen and correct their behaviour. There’s a number of ways that Lipoff approaches the idea of political correctness and the typical overcompensation with the “I would’ve voted for Obama a third term if I could” style charade of hyperbole remarks to cover racism. It also touches upon the idea that when someone has racist attitudes but starts spouting things like “I don’t see colour”, they might start to overly pat themselves on the back, leading full circle back to original problem just in a slightly different package. The writing is also very self-aware of its rather cheesy tone, it’s not bitingly sharp, it’s smart but silly and follows a smooth pace with a satisfying resolution.
The direction also comes across like it has an intentional commercial feel to it, as if the whole thing were a pharmaceutical advert or promotion for their new product. It’s a style that feels familiar to that of Saturday Night Live, a light-hearted, constantly moving, parody. It also feels influenced by a more 80s aesthetic with around the water cooler type shots, it doesn’t take away from the modern setting but adds that classic jovial, playful air to it that fits very well with the parody.
Klein gives a great performance as the lead, he brings out all the qualities to his character that you’d expect, the frat-boy style attitude mixed with casual racism, offhand insulting comments with a lazy acknowledgement of the offence caused but without really caring. He’s the type of character that you don’t like him, you don’t hate him, he falls somewhere in the middle simply because you know exactly what to expect of him, which actually works very much in their favour here. Tatiana St. Phard is a great addition, it’s a shame you don’t get to see more of her, bringing that intense yet reserved disdain for racism, with added sarcasm. Wilson and Davis are the cherry on top with their duo of doctors.
Woke is funny and smart, it would be so easy to go in the wrong direction with this concept but Lipoff and Watson strike the right note of parody with their writing to really make it work. It fits a lot into its short runtime, touching upon several different aspects of modern racism and misuses of political correctness. Most importantly, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s utterly self-aware of its silly nature which allows them to balance the humour out with its relevance very well.