‘Dick and Jack’: Film Review

John Ransom Phillips’ directorial debut imagines a series of conversations between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy and their respective fathers.

There’s enough psychobabble in Dick and Jack to fuel a dozen therapy sessions. John Ransom Phillips’ feature debut imagines a series of meetings between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy (hence the gay porn-sounding title) and their fathers, Frank Nixon and Joseph Kennedy. Shot mostly in black & white on an obviously miniscule budget, the indie film resembles the sort of bargain basement theatrical production whose audience consists mostly of friends and family members lending moral support.

Set in 1960 — when Nixon was serving as Vice President and Kennedy was running against him in the upcoming election — the film takes place largely in the White House barbershop where the resident barber (Robert Tyler) cuts the hair of his famous customers while maintaining a suitably discreet demeanor. It becomes evident early on that both Dick (Ken Straus) and Jack (Drew Allen) have significant daddy issues.

The Bottom Line

Bargain-basement historical pyschodrama.

“Your gift to me was a strange mix of common sense and rage,” Nixon tells his father (Zenon Zeleniuch). “And a widow’s peak that talks back to you.”

Later, he tells Jack, “My father taught me how to hate, and I still do!”

In between complaining to his father about his physical ailments, including Addison’s disease, Jack reveals himself to be sexually obsessed, at one point describing his liaisons with his former lovers, including Angie Dickinson, in lascivious detail. Apparently channeling his infancy, he declares, “I like being touched … the feeling of a warm breast in my mouth, the flow of milk.”

We get a glimpse into the origins of Nixon’s worldview with his father’s advice, “Don’t trust your neighbors, Jews or the taxman.” Joe Kennedy (Joseph Rose), referring to Nixon’s father, asks Dick, “When you masturbate, do you feel his shame?” He also helpfully teaches Dick how to deliver what would become his trademark raised-arms salute.

To relive the visual tedium, the filmmaker later positions the characters in front of a colorful abstract painting, unintentionally providing the effect of JFK and Nixon experiencing a shared acid trip.

Bizarrely, the lead performers bear practically no resemblance to the real-life figures they’re portraying, although the bigger question is why the film’s Joe Kennedy speaks in a thick Brooklyn accent.

Distributor: CINEMAflix
Production company: Art Pond
Cast: Ken Straus, Joseph Rose, Drew Allen, Zenon Zeleniuch, Robert Tyler
Director-screenwriter-executive producer: John Ransom Phillips
Producer: Rebecca H. Hames
Director of photography: Tim Naylor
Production designer: Brenna Landerkin
Editor: Orian Barki
Costume designer: Sachi Masuda
Composers: Tomas Doncker, James Dellatacoma

Not rated, 90 minutes