November 22nd, 2015
STARRING: GREGG TURKINGTON, JOHN C. REILLY, TYE SHERIDAN, MICHAEL CERA, AMY SEIMETZ
DIRECTED BY: RICK ALVERSON
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 STAR (Out of 4)
There is a divide amongst film critics on the new film from director Rick Alverson, ironically titled- Entertainment. That title is clearly supposed to be a funny play on the audience that is watching, because this movie is anything but entertaining. In fact, here is a film that would be more appropriately titled if it were called- Forgetful. It stars Gregg Turkington as a character named The Comedian, a lonely, odd looking man, who tours small venues in western desert towns as a comedic persona, which is never funny. Along the way, some well-known actors show up in scenes, but Entertainment is a slow and sometimes disturbing bore.
The life of the comedian on the road has been chronicled in different ways in numerous films, such as Judd Apatow’s Funny People or Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy. The problem here, is the main character is impossible to enjoy. It begins with The Comedian on stage at a prison with inmates watching. Like most days for him, he stands alone, wearing his thick glasses, a bow-tie, with his thinned, soaking wet, side parted hair, while he grasps the microphone with three drinks cradled in his arms. He tells jokes that are above the “knock knock” style in terms of delivery and filthy enough for “the aristocrats”. With a nasally voice, he says, “What do you get when you cross Sir Elton John with a saber-toothed tiger? I don’t know, but you better keep it away from your ass!” He receives little laughs, no matter the type of crowd. Life on the road is a lonely, almost pointless struggle.
One of the many issues that this film has, and there are many, is the nature it goes about to make the audience feel uncomfortable. Co-written by Turkington, Alverson, and Tim Heidecker of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, the film never wants us to truly appreciate what the lead character is about. Everything he does is creepy. In between shows, he visits odd tourist attractions, an abandoned airplane junkyard, or a phony old west town, often stepping away from the tour group to be alone. When he finds a moment, he uses his phone to call what could be an estranged daughter who may not even exist. He continues to call, always leaving a message that is as depressing as the evening news.
I should note, the cinematography from Lorenzo Hagerman (Heli) is quite beautiful. He films the western deserts and dirty bars perfectly, which helps create more isolation for our main character. But when other characters are introduced, things continue to be weird. He travels with an opening clown act- Eddie (Tye Sheridan from Joe and Mud) who juggles and dances to warm crowds up, without success. It seems to be a part of The Comedian’s schtick to tell awful jokes, and then be enraged when the crowd heckles him or does not laugh. John C. Reilly appears as a distant cousin who does his best to defend the poor reception for the jokes. Later scenes range from shock to strange. The comedian witnesses a woman giving birth in a bathroom, is approached by an odd junky (Michael Cera), and is even confronted by a patron (Amy Seimetz) that he called a whore because she “interrupted” his act. All of it equalling a boring, pointless expression of film.
Entertainment sets out to move and shock the audience that views it, but fails to include us in on the jokes. Alverson wants us to ask “what is entertainment”, or feel sorry for the lead character, but if you ask me whether or not this movie was funny, or worth the time, I would tell you a resounding no. Its best to leave this comedian on his own.
Written By: Leo Brady