HOLLYSHORTS 2020 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! The gonzo short, Richard Nixon: Getaway Driver asks, “What if the 37th President of the United States was a closeted rebel beatnik who, while tripping on acid late one night, recorded himself pontificating about his lost youth?” According to the film’s version of Nixon, the former president was the getaway driver for JFK’s assassin, who turns out not to be Lee Harvey Oswald, but popular folk singer Phil Ochs. Man, Richard Nixon: Getaway Driver is the kind of movie that I wish I had been tripping on acid while watching.
We open with a clip from the famous Zapruder film that documented a portion of the motorcade that carried JFK and his wife through Dallas in 1963 and culminated in the president’s horrific assassination. Immediately after the shooting, we cut to a 1960s two-reel tape recorder and are introduced to one Richard Nixon, who informs us that he is sitting in the Oval Office in the early morning hours following a party. Nixon declares that he is tripping on LSD, the result, he concludes, of Jefferson Airplane frontwoman Grace Slick having slipped him the drug.
He recounts having been recruited by an unnamed enterprise to be Ochs’s getaway driver after the singer assassinates JFK, and was waiting in a nearby car to speed out of town.
“…recruited by an unnamed enterprise to be Ochs’s getaway driver after the singer assassinates JFK…”
At this point, it is safe to say that Richard Nixon: Getaway Driver is going to be living on the higher end of the batshit-o-meter. In its hyperbolic fashion, the movie turns out to be a wild manifestation of one man’s mid-life crisis. We sense in Nixon’s voice-over that he is pining for his younger days when he had been a bit of a “speed demon” and had harbored aspirations to be a musician.
In his LSD-induced stupor, Nixon appears to be exorcising these dormant dreams by pinning JFK’s murder on one of the most popular folk singers of the time and then casting himself as his getaway driver. Nixon’s role as the getaway driver reconnects him with his youth to the horror of the much-younger Ochs who has no idea what he’s gotten himself into. “Son, you really don’t know what you did for me today,” he tells Ochs.
Richard Nixon: Getaway Driver is almost too outlandish in its intention to break free from the constraints of conventional storytelling just as its protagonist wants to break free from the constraints of his life. The movie’s aim to be so anti-conventional is what pushes the film into the realm of the avant-garde.
With its acid-washed visuals and 1960s video-style stock, the film resembles one of those old filmstrips you’d see in elementary school. Richard Nixon: Getaway Driver is equal parts thematically offbeat and visually loopy. In other words, a minor curio that, by the time it’s over, you think to yourself, “What the hell was that?” Far out, man!
Richard Nixon: Getaway Driver screened at the 2020 Hollyshorts Film Festival.
"…living on the higher end of the batshit-o-meter."