Film Review: ASSHOLES: A THEORY (Canada 2019) ***

Assholes: A Theory Poster
Inspired by the NYT bestselling book, this lively philosophical investigation into the rise of asshole behaviour across the world asks: What does it mean to be an asshole, and more importantly, how do we stop their proliferation?


John Walker

Some grapple with the challenge of treating other human beings decently. Others are just… assholes, claims Professor Aaron James in his New York Times bestselling book, Assholes: A Theory. This intellectually provocative film takes a playful approach to uncovering why asshole behaviour is on the rise in the workplace, in government, and at home.

Finally a film about assholes or about assholism, a word conned by filmmaker John Waters (PINK FLAMINGOES, FEMALE TROUBLE).  The film is clear to emphasize at the start that is about the book “Assholes: A Theory”.  The film goes on, as expected, to define or state what people think an asshole is to be defined as: someone with the entrenched (an interviewee goes on to say right after that he loves the word entrenched) feeling that he or she is better than others and that others do not count.

As the film’s title implies, the film is supposed to be taken with a grain of salt.  Whatever is presented, it is to be lightly taken, to be fun and entertaining, while putting down the subject and villain of the film – the asshole.

The film explains that there are many types of assholes:

  • the boorish asshole
  • the smug asshole
  • the surfer asshole
  • the self aggrandizing asshole


Walker goes on the include clips from films that include assholes, poking fun at how funny assholes can be in film or in a book.  Among them is ex-Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who claims that he never smoked crack cocaine and then said later that he could have, on one of his drunken stupors.  But this clearly makes him only a clown.  But once he decidedly goes on late talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, he has upgraded his status to asshole mayor. 

But Walker is quite serious of the subject.  Walker intends to discover the impact of assholes so he takes off, to the streets of L.A.  He also engages a psychotherapist to talk about the subject.  She treats the subject seriously including bullying that is a true trait of being an asshole.  Harvey Weinstein, an easy target is brought up, which I am sure will get many an audience cheering.

Walker’s film gets serious on the segment where the RCMP is attacked as condoning asshole behaviour.  An interviewed female member in Winnipeg whistle blows the RCMP and with reason. She is called raison tits and other degrading terms by the males and no one said anything.  She holds the assholes at the top responsible, saying that anyone had said something, this crime would not have gone on.

The film is also amusing in the way it states certain things that most of us, the audience already know.  One is the difference between a prick and an asshole.  If a boy exhibits asshole behaviour, he is called ‘a little shit’, because he has not come of age yet to be classified an asshole.   It requires a certain age to know the difference and if one still thinks one is better than others and behaves so, then that is a true classed asshole. And so the film amusingly goes on.

How long can this theory go on before the audiences can say that it all become a bit boring.  Fortunately, the film is short enough to keep interest from waning.


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