About a third of the film, Norton spits out a dark, pessimistic interpretation of America into a mirror. The angry, hateful monologue is a vision of New York – and, by implication, the US – lost to tribal strife, unable to ever live up to the name of the United States. Ethnic, religious, racial, gender, and even professional differences have simply pushed us too far apart.
In the closing moments of the film, Cox offers a rebuttal. Describing a Second Chance America where strangers lend a helping hand, James tries to entice his son to escape from prison. Laying out a promise to go West, but for modern times, he describes a country where people will recognize and respect a person who is trying to achieve more, rather than condemn him for his past.
Due to Monty and Naturel’s ethnic and racial differences, it also visually blends into an old-fashioned, melting vision of America. Sitting among his multi-generational family, mixed-race children and grandchildren surround Norton lovingly.
It may sound a bit like Pollyanna, but that’s the point. Monty told himself a story about the worst version of the United States in his father’s bar. In response, his father tries to assert America’s possibilities at their best. A place of redemption where everyone has a chance. A place where we are all part of the American experiment and equally worthy to claim it, regardless of our demographics.