The Comedy – yet another festival film without a story
Imagine a film about a 30-something guy with a big belly that spends all of his days drinking booze, eating cookies, hanging with his friends. He has no purpose or drive in his life and he never connects to anyone or anything. His eyes has always the same, blank, absent look, even as he hooks up with one of those girls, who for reasons I can’t explain seem to be drawn to his sad being.
This man walks through life without ever being challenged by anything more difficult than his own self pitying and navel gazing. In a near future he’s going to inherit a fortune from his father, which means that he’ll never ever have to think about how to earn a living for the rest of his life.
Imagine spending one and a half hour watching this man pottering around half naked, either drinking or acting like a jerk to other people, but most of all doing absolutely nothing.
Does it sound boring? It is. This film exists, and for a reason I don’t know it’s called “The Comedy”, which is about the last thing it is.
Seen it before
I have no idea of what the film is meant to convey. A reasonable guess is that it wants to show that just because you’re wealthy it doesn’t mean that you automatically become a happier person, knowing what to do with the easy life you’ve been given. The souls of rich people get lost too.
The problem however is that we’ve seen movies with similar themes before and those were far more interesting and easier to engage with.
The bored and alienated film star in Sophia Coppola’s Somewhere was someone that also appeared a bit spoiled and unreasonably self-pitying, but I could still find reasons to sympathize with him, much thanks to his interaction with his daughter. And unlike The Comedy, Somewhere had a plot. Even if it was just as slow, it was moving in a certain direction, from one point to another. The Comedy doesn’t go anywhere at all, or if it does, it’s too subtle for me to notice.
Another movie I got to think of was Mike Leigh’s Naked. While Johnny in Naked lives in a completely different financial situation to Swanson in The Comedy, they’re both unpleasant guys with a nihilistic view on life. But their output is completely different. John Thewlis’ character is in a state of frenzy, spitting out a fascinating verbal cascade of wit, cynicism and madness. Tim Heidecker on the other hand is left with a lot less to do. Most of the time he is a state of apathy. I don’t say that he isn’t good at playing his role – he’s very convincing in it – but it’s not as entertaining to watch.
I can imagine that The Comedy works better if you come from the socio-cultural circles where it takes place. Perhaps it offers recognition and smart, poignant criticism. I can’t tell since I don’t come from that place.
All I know is that it left me as indifferent as the characters it depictures. And that after seeing three festival films which all had in common that they lacked a story, I crave for a movie that wants to engage me.
The Comedy (Rick Alverson, US 2012) My rating: 2/5