Monday, June 15, 2015


Director: Rik Alverson.
Writer: Rik Alverson, Tim Heidecker, Greg Turkington.
Actors: Greg Turkington, John C. Reilley, Tye Sheridan, Amy Seimetz, Michael Cera and Tim Heidecker.
Synopsis: A depressed comedian tours the Southwest to apathetic audiences. 

Comedy is a fascinating thing. It is always a point of contention in the mainstream. From Richard Pryor to even Louis C. K., there will always be an article decrying certain kinds of comedy and jokes about what is and isn't in good taste. Even the most vanilla comedian, Jerry Seinfeld is getting flack for criticizing the politically correct environment that plagues comedians. It's also a field ripe with depression, and I won't bother listing how many great comedians have passed away due to depression/suicide or overdoses.

In director Rick Alverson's second feature, we follow a fictionalized (?) version of comedian Greg Turkington as he tours the American Southwest with his "Neil Hamburger" persona. This is a comedian that is utterly depressed and sad but still performs at clubs filled with people that hate him. Given Alverson's precious effort THE COMEDIAN, which features one of the most loathsome and grating characters in recent memory, it feel like a perfect fit for this unflinching and uncomfortable look at a sad man. 

On the surface, this movie is about a quiet and imposing man who can barely muster the energy to look at people in the eye who transforms into this grotesque persona that's about as confrontational as it gets. The Neil Hamburger persona is a fascinating due to his downright antagonistic attitude. Everything about him is a contradiction. He's wearing a suit to look classy, but it's ill fitting and loose, and his the purposely greasy comb over doesn't help either. He makes some insanely funny and crude jokes which sound like playground knock knock jokes but they take on a crude turn, "What is the difference between Courtney Love and the American flag? You wouldn't piss on the American flag."

The contradictions extend to the man himself. Greg (though he might be called Gene in the movies) is one of the saddest looking people. He's constantly slouching and slow. He always has a distant look  in his eyes in the rare times he's interacting with other people. He also on the surface appears to be a devoted father albeit an absent one since he's calling his daughter mutiple times during the movie. The thing is he's always leaving voice mails and as the movie increasingly becomes more surreal it's possible that the daughter doesn't exist. 

The movie does have something to say about art and its relationship to the audience. Greg, as a form of entertainment, watches raunchy telenovelas full of hyperbolic vaudevillian comedy, but he still watches presumably for enjoyment. This perfectly mirrors the Neil Hamburger performance where he is always seemingly at odds with his audience since you never hear a laugh from them during the entire movie. The movie seems to pose the question of the "validity" of art if it doesn't connect with its audience. 

Despite how dreary the movie is, it's a beautifully shot and takes the full advantage of the wide screen as there's various scenes of Greg out on the desert in beautiful rock formations or while he's taking one of those cheesy local tours. To add to the somber mood, the score is as equally relentless and dour as the movie with a lot of bass synth tones.

The movie does derail itself a bit towards the end as it gets even more psychedelic and surreal. Greg starts imagining himself starring the telenovelas, and he starts to run into increasingly crazy characters that are outlandish even for the world that's been established.

ENTERTAINMENT is an extension of the director, and it's relentlessly punishing style. In that regard, it's a fascinating look at a depressed man full of contradiction and his place in comedy. This is a movie that is so intense and so strange that it's hard to say that it could find an audience to make its point. But maybe, that IS the point.

Directed by 

Rick Alverson

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)  

Rick Alverson...(co-writer)
Rick Alverson
Tim Heidecker...(co-writer)
Gregg Turkington...(co-writer)
Gregg Turkington


Michael Cera
Lotte Verbeek...
The Chromotherapist
Tye Sheridan...
John C. Reilly...
Dean Stockwell...
Amy Seimetz...
Tim Heidecker...
The Celebrity
Mariann Gavelo...
Sitcom Maria
Tonantzin Carmelo...
Kalia Prescott...
Gregg Turkington...
The Comedian

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