Judge Mike Rubino didn't laugh once!
"Make yourself a boat"—Swanson
This isn't a comedy.
Facts of the Case
Swanson (Tim Heidecker, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!) is in the midst of a midlife non-crisis. He spends his days laughing at things, mocking people, and embracing an Andy Kaufmann-esque aura of aloofness. He doesn't take anything seriously, especially the waning health of his wealthy father.
The Comedy is a tough film. For starters, you have to throw out all of the expectations that come with seeing a movie called "The Comedy" starring the guys from Tim and Eric. It's not that kind of comedy. Even the film's opening scene, involving a bunch of naked, grown men wrestling and drenching each other in Pabst Blue Ribbon, is reminiscent of the duo's previous work. Toss all of that out. What's here is a dark, searing look into the world of entitlement, insincerity, and a unique brand of hipster.
Tim Heidecker's Swanson drifts through the film like the king of Brooklyn—an emperor without any clothes or followers. I think he lives on a boat? It's never made clear. All that we know is that his rich dad is dying, leaving Swanson with plenty of money and a world of feelings he's trying to crush and deflect. His friends, played by Eric Wareheim, Gregg Turkington (a.k.a. Neil Hamburger), and James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), sit around and ironically guzzle champagne and PBR while droning on about hip-hop and sex. Even their own moments of supposed sincerity—like when they declare their love for each other as family—is layered with irony and laughter. For a guy who's on the cusp of losing his father, Swanson laughs a lot.
The Comedy, written by Robert Donne, Colm O'Leary, and Rick Alverson (who also directs), relies more on vignettes and sketches than any blatant three-act arc. The film is constantly challenging the viewer's ability to endure and react. Swanson is intensely unlikable, but there are plenty of moments in the film where I paused to think: do I know anyone like this? Can I be this way? The Comedy can feel like an HBO documentary on the state of urban 30-somethings in modern America: folks with a sense of entitlement, with trust funds, and without a sense of morality or sincere connection.
Swansons's blank stares and crass observations amount to a man that is wandering through a world both foreign and trivial. The film is at its best when we see average people interacting with Swanson. He tries to work as a dishwasher in a restaurant, but is terrible at it. He convinces a cabbie to let him drive the taxi for a couple hundred bucks. He tries to talk to a group of African Americans at a neighborhood bar using whatever slang he's heard in rap songs. It's as if Swanson is performing for an audience that doesn't exist. His entire life is a joke, but nothing is all that funny.
The Comedy is a good looking, claustrophobic, indie picture. But much of the runtime is eaten by staring and silence. It's perhaps meant to show Swanson's emptiness or unconnectedness with the world. After a while, however, it can get a little dull. The character study is fascinating and unsettling, but there is very little payoff or conclusion to the film. It ends with a glimpse of optimism…and possibly the expectation that the viewer will make up his or her mind over what just happened. I liked it. It isn't what I expected, and it certainly isn't perfect, but it stuck in my mind for a while after seeing it.
This standard def DVD transfer is great. The picture is vibrant and sharp, and the sound design is top notch. The film also uses its indie soundtrack to wisely give the story an emotional booster shot. Included on the disc is a worthwhile commentary track with Alverson and Heidecker which helps unravel some of the film's interpretations and messages. There's also a slew of deleted material.
The Comedy is a well-made character study of a certain brand of Brooklyn hipster. While "hipster" culture may be a little more mainstream nowadays, this film digs to the root of where this societal trend originates and takes things to a moral extreme. The cast, and especially Tim Heidecker, is fantastic. The plot is slow but effective. It's worth seeing, if only out of grotesque curiosity.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Video
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