When I warn people about films being abrasive and controversial to the point of having moments that are downright unwatchable, it is usually a result of some sort of graphic depiction of sexual violence, as is the case with almost all of Salo; Or the 120 Days of Sodom, or it is due to their sheer disregard for political correctness in the name of a larger statement on art and middle American values, as certainly occurs within Harmony Korine's Gummo. Yet what one receives when viewing last years The Comedy, a film starring Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric fame, is a film that is equally abrasive in its visual offerings, as well as main character, without the sort of artistic detachment or political statements of the aforementioned films, and before you continue reading this post, I want to make it absolutely clear that my noting of this films off-putting and disconcerting elements are not a sign of a critique in any way on my part, in fact, I absolutely become mesmerized with The Comedy. Of course, the title is decidedly deceptive and will surely prove to be an unwanted encounter for many people on Netflix who see the title and expect an outright hilarious film. Instead, under the brilliant directorial vision of Rick Alverson, viewers are provided with an indie work that throws caution to the wind in deconstructing exactly how disconnected a privileged white yuppie finds themselves, particularly in the face of real world oppression and suffering. The title is more than apt for a film that is rather sparse on comedic moments, although some of Heidecker's improvisation is glorious, in that it takes comedy in much the same sense that Shakespeare did, allowing it to simply depict the absurdity of certain detached groups existences, complete with all their frivolous absurdity. Of course, The Comedy clearly lands on the side of condemnation, but that is not to say that it is not aware of the possibility of realization, especially within regards to the main character, whose movement between a world of PBR-fueled awkward sexual encounters to a very real understanding of the facts of death, allow for a narrative of the most minor of advances towards maturity, yet in the way of this biting film, viewers are left asking the question of whether or not such an inconsequential change allows for a avenue of forgiveness for the truly degrading behavior enacted upon others by the privileged bodies that occupy the filmic space.
The Comedy focuses nearly entirely on the experiences of Swanson (Tim Heidecker) a well-to-do kid whose money seems to be very much tied to the financial success of an ailing father. His wealth allows him to circle himself with other trust fund kids who spend their days guzzling a bizarre combination PBR and high-end bourbon, while spouting off terrible sex based jokes, or diatribe against the system that seems to support those with little. Swanson in particular, seems set on making persons exist within an awkward state as a means to find some sort of validation for his malaise fueled existence, whether this involves invading the work of immigrant landscapers, or suggesting that Adolf Hitler might not have been a terrible guy had his ideas properly panned out. It is clear that even through all this, Swanson possesses a crippling sense of loneliness, often exiling himself to trips on his boat, or going to an "urban" club by himself in search of sex, with persons of a particular racial background. It never appears that Swanson has any direction to his actions, at one point taking a job as a dishwasher, simply because he happens to be in the area at the moment and applies for the position, much to the confusion of the employer. It is not until he pays a cab driver an absurd amount of money simply to drive his cab that things become problematic, especially when he refuses to respect the drivers request of calm and normal driving when he makes cat calls at a girl he passes. This less than close run in with trouble seems to do little to change Swanson, in fact, when he goes out with a waitress on his boat, he sits curiously indifferent when after taking a combination of drugs and alcohol she begins having convulsions. The closing scenes of the film involve Swanson apparently going on a biking purge, only to follow this by more absurd drinking and viewing of old photographs and porn with his buddies. Yet, the closing moments of the film show Swanson playing at the beach, happily welcoming a young boy into a game of innocent splashing, suggesting a longing for childhood, although his simplistic movement through the world certainly implies that this desire is already a reality.
The beauty of the film The Comedy is that it manages to use the genre of pretentious hipster mumblecorp (in this case negative, although they can be good) film to completely reject the sort of disillusion relating to the struggles of rich white kids trying to justify their lives. This can be horribly delivered and fall short as happens in The Pleasure of Being Robbed, or work when the conventions are undercut in the closing sequences of Entrance. The Comedy is decidedly on the side of undercutting, but there is no degree of suggestion that this could be redemptive, the PBR-infused inquiries into the questions of life that do indeed exist in so many of these films come crashing down when Swanson uses such moments to push people away from one another, most notably himself, and viewing this occur within The Comedy made me realize that it often occurs in a variety of mumblecorp films through the "look how much smarter" I am moments, again Heidecker just blows it absolutely out of proportion. Similarly these films often take for granted the characters abilities to move through their landscapes, even if completely desolate, at least this is very much the case for Swanson and his other pals, who use cabs unapologetically, and demand that the cab drivers provide them with their every request, or they will flat out refuse to tip them as a result. It is an element of the "struggling yuppie" that they often ignore their ability to move freely away from their problems, or better yet mask them with drugs and booze, hell, Swanson's boat is the ultimate form of excessive escapism. Another tragedy lies in the characters of such films working in dead end jobs while assumedly aspiring to do something else, with little gratitude for the value of employment, particularly in the abysmal economy wherein many of these films were produce. Swanson, again, takes a job just for the hell of it, never really considering that the work could mean the livelihood to another individual. Of course, the most intense and baffling scene occurs in a church and sort of proves the centrifuge for the downfall Swanson experiences in the second half of the film.
Key Scene: The shuffle sequence in the church will have you in awe, I felt my mouth dropping in confusion and awe, both moved and disturbed simultaneously.
This is a recent addition to Netflix Watch Instant and should be viewed before it disappears for one reason or another.