Genuinely, I'm sorry to do this, but you really need some context before we dive into my experience watching Napoleon. In freshman year history class, Mr. C demanded that I memorise the capital city of each and every state in this damned country. For reasons that amounted to "fuck this weird-baseball-coach-slash-history-teacher" and "fuck Little Rock and Topeka and Bismark and Montpelier," I made a clear-eyed decision to cheat my way through the next four years of high school history. When we hit Napoleon and the French Revolution, I think, I was copying tests from Frank and Gage. (If you're reading this, Frage... thank you.)

It's a long way around to telling you that, last week, I saw—or, bore witness to—director Ridley Scott's Napoleon. There I was, a 30-year-old man with popcorn butter stains on his sweatpants at the Times Square Regal E-Walk, wondering if there's any historical basis for Napoleon oinking at Joséphine when he wants to get nasty. Could this be history? I mused.

Reader, Napoleon is really fucking weird. It's easy to understand why critics seem so confused. A film that was advertised as the "Dad Movie of the Century" sways between tones like a boozy night on the Atlantic! To give you an idea of the experience, Napoleon is two hours and 38 minutes long. First act: We're introduced to the Napoleon your girlfriend tells you not to worry about. When his horse gets a cannonball to the chest, he asks someone to dig out the cannonball so he can keep it as a memento. Second act: Napoleon done in the style of a Bowen Yang-led Saturday Night Live! skit where the quippy, wounded emperor oinks when he's horny. Third act: Waterloo.

At different points in the film, my fellow audience members were either cackling or hush-quiet. They giggled at Bonaparte's takedown of the Austrian emperor or in awe of Scott's signature historical set-pieces. After seeing the long, yet hyper-focused Killers of the Flower Moon and The Holdovers's uncomplicated mushiness, Napoleon baffled me. I can't stop thinking about it, in a men-are-always-thinking-about-the-Roman-Empire kind of way. Of all the films I've seen this year, it was the one I couldn't stop myself from recapping around Esquire's offices to anyone who would listen.

The next day, I paid a visit to our managing editor—and noted reader of historical biographies—John Kenney, and brought up a number of questions I have for Napoleon, all of which haunted my eighth-grade-level history chops:

John, bless his soul, politely watched me blabber on. He didn't offer much background either way, because either I wasn't making sense, or Napoleon didn't make sense. (If we're being honest, probably both.)

Does it Lionise the Man?

It's possible—maybe even likely—that Scott intended Napoleon as one big roast of one very little man. This man, who (as we are reminded at the end of the film) ignited wars that caused millions of casualties. So he leaned into the creepo Napoleon (Creepoleon? That something?), who was most vulnerable when he was with Joséphine. Especially the letters: "I write you, me beloved one, very often, and you write very little. You are wicked and naughty, very naughty, as much as you are fickle."

Maybe Scott thought that going full Band of Brothers on the Napoleonic Wars would reach hero-worship territory. But that doesn' explain why the last hour or so, Napoleon is exactly that. Replete with an epic Ridley Scott battle, with plenty of guns, formations, stabbing, and death. Or, perhaps Napoleon's unevenness must thank Phoenix's take on the Frenchman, which has a little bit too much Joker and Beau in the alchemy. (Another hilarious, if dubious delivery from Phoenix, delivered at top-of-lungs decibels: "YOU THINK YOU'RE SO GREAT BECAUSE YOU HAVE BOATS!")

If you're looking for a neat, tidy takeaway for this one, I don't have it. All I know is that in between bites of turkey during this Thanksgiving, I'll wonder if Bonaparte actually needed a stepladder to properly view a mummy, and secretly wish that the turkey was a lamb chop. Ask me again next year, folks.