‘The Comedy’ Movie Review – A Frustrating Departure
The Comedy is not a comedy. There I said it. It’s supposed to be a sarcastic, hipster black comedy, and while it’s surely sarcastic and hipster…it’s unfortunately not all that funny or moving. At its best, it’s a slightly interesting character study helped immensely by Tim Heidecker’s performance. He acts everyone else out of the water, but the movie is simply too frustrating to applaude much more.
Rick Alverson’s newest film spends practically all 90 minutes trained on Swanson (Heidecker) as he wanders through his shallow life. With his father on his death bed, it comes down to just how far Swanson can go in public. He pushes the limits of everyday society, trying to find the fine line between odd and downright weird. We’re talking about a guy who picks his nose with a toothbrush, then uses it to brush his teeth.
The story, like Swanson’s life, has no direction. It’s stuck between being thoughtful and funny, without actually achieving either. His character’s sarcasm is the most accessible trait, but it’s still not all that interesting.
“Interesting” seems to be the problem, too, because Swanson isn’t a character worthy of an entire character study. At the most, he’d suffice as the crazy friend almost every story has. Maybe The Comedy is trying to flesh out what crazy people mean to our lives, but I’m afraid it’s too obscure to connect with a lot of audience members.
The highpoint, though, is definitely Heidecker’s performance. He, and co-star Eric Wareheim, are famous for Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (released earlier this year) which spawned from the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Anyone familiar with either (or both) of these programs knows about their absurd style of humor.
While I’m not a huge fan, I will admit a lot of their stuff can be funny. However, Heidecker doesn’t embody a lot of the same style in The Comedy. To my surprise, his dramatic turn is super effective because he doesn’t over-do his character. It’s just too bad he couldn’t get help from the people around him (including Wareheim, James Murphy, and Gregg Turkington) or, more importantly, the plot.
I do think the final scene finally conveys exactly what the film was getting at – isolation. It doesn’t make up for the 85+ minutes of aimless wandering, but it signifies the first attempt at an effective concept.
Cute finale aside, Rick Alverson’s The Comedy takes a much different approach than other Tim Heidecker projects. Initially I was onboard with the departure, but the end result is a mess. It’s full of less-than-stellar characters and plot points bookmarked with uninteresting ironic humor. The “comedy” makes-or-breaks the film, and it’s pretty obvious how I felt about it. Heidecker himself tries to salvage it, but his spirited performance is lost in the shuffle.
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