Film Review: THE COMEDY (directed by Rick Alverson)

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by Zach Freeman on November 5, 2012

in Film

THE JOKE’S ON WHO?

As a story, The Comedy is as blunt as its title, devoting 94 unrelenting minutes of character development to a man-boy whose development and character are equally questionable. Tasked with bringing some sense of soul to the dead-eyed, over-privileged slacker Swanson, Tim Heidecker (the Tim half of Adult Swim’s Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!) delivers a surprisingly captivating performance and transforms, with the help of an impressive supporting cast and director Rick Alverson’s careful lens, what could have been a one-note deadend into an intriguing film that some may argue is being given more credit than it deserves.

Zach Freeman’s Stage and Cinema review of the film THE COMEDY

But for my money, this unconventional, meandering piece deserves whatever recognition it gets. Following a detached thirty-five year old as he waits for his wealthy father to pass away, wandering through a cushioned, unmotivated existence, The Comedy consistently manages to find both the comedy and tragedy in this guy’s confused and confusing actions. Whether he’s passing the time drunkenly exchanging emptily sarcastic dialogue with his equally disconnected buddies (including LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and the other half of the Tim and Eric duo Eric Wareheim), pretending to be an employee in an antique shop or condescending to his father’s home-care nurse, the film refrains from feeling monotonous while maintaining a firm focus on the vapid life of the central character.

Zach Freeman’s Stage and Cinema review of the film THE COMEDY

In a particularly uncomfortable (and especially memorable) scene, an overworked cab driver, finding himself the victim of one of Swanson’s unending barrages of awkward social games, exasperatedly pleads, “This is not a playground… This is my life!” But to Swanson, that’s all life seems to have the potential to be: a rather uninspiring and mean-spirited playground. And the fact that Heidecker somehow keeps the audience from truly despising this clearly despicable character is reason enough to be impressed. That after witnessing an hour and a half of (admittedly engrossing) unredeemably sophomoric actions there may be a slight feeling of desperate hope in the last few moments is icing on the cake.

Zach Freeman’s Stage and Cinema review of the film THE COMEDY

Ennui can be a tough topic for any film, especially one whose star is a little-known comedian who has, until this point, probably never considered himself an “actor,” and certainly not anyone’s first choice to carry a drama. But improvisationally filling in the blanks of the 20-page treatment script, created by director Rick Alverson along with Robert Donne and Colm O’Leary, Heidecker has found his sweet spot and the film flourishes because of it.

Zach Freeman’s Stage and Cinema review of the film THE COMEDY

The biggest joke here may be that beneath the graphic language and nudity that may distract some viewers, there’s actually a raw and almost frantic sadness that slowly bleeds through and remains with you much longer than any of the moments of uncomfortable laughter.

photos courtesy of Tribeca Film

The Comedy
Tribeca Film Distribution
Greyshack Films/Glass Eye Pix in association with Made Bed Productions
rated R; 1 hours 34 minutes
opens in limited release on November 9, 2012
available now on VOD and digital platforms

for more info, visit The Comedy

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