The Comedy Film Details
Overview: Indifferent to the notion of inheriting his father’s estate, a restless, aging New Yorker passes time with his friends in games of mock sincerity and irreverence.
Review: How do you recommend a movie that features a lead character who is an a–hole? Not only that, but he stays an a–hole. No redemption. No heartfelt realization that he has to change his ways and then goes about doing so – hello Scrooge! No scene where he explodes in tears and promises everyone that he loves that he’s changed for good. I’m being half serious, but, really, most people go to movies to watch characters they like and root for or people they start off disliking and then, as those characters learn and grow and change, in the end, come to like and come to root for. Swanson, a rich kid layabout who uses sarcasm as both armour and sword, is thoroughly unlikeable. He’s selfish, cruel, condescending, lazy and not funny. Yet, you stay with him. At least I did. You follow him and his equally annoying friends as they hang out and drink beer and talk nonsense and bother people who are clearly just trying to ignore them. You do so because you realize that underneath all of this casual ugliness is a subtext that slowly asserts itself. Filmmaker Richard Alverson, along with co-writers Robert Donne and Colm O’Leary, have created a profound movie about emotional avoidance that carefully ups the stakes until you truly do feel for Swanson. Strangely enough, the more cruel and vulgar Swanson gets – to a succession of people absolutely undeserving of that cruelty and vulgarity – the more it leads you closer to the heart of the character rather than further away. It is not that you grow to like him, but, you grow to understand him and, in doing so, begin to understand the true tragedy of this broken human being. Take the opening scene – Swanson sits sipping scotch and tearing through one crispy chocolate cookie after another as, just a few feet away, his father, hooked up to an I.V., lies dying in his bed. A male nurse enters and Swanson starts laying into him. Attempting to embarrass the man by mocking the unpleasantness of his job and specifically as it relates to his father, Swanson fails. The male nurse says a lot by saying nothing – just staring at Swanson with contempt. A simple scene, yet with complicated implications. Swanson’s cruel attempt at mocking the male nurse actually tells us more about him than it does about his target. This is a stock scene, yet, what Alverson, Heidecker and company do here is play with our familiarity of the way this scene usually unfolds. As an audience member, we know this scene before a word is spoken. The shots reveal all – dying dad, son, nurse. Yet, what you get in THE COMEDY is a scene so far from what is expected that it, at first, throws you. As you slowly adjust to not getting what you expect, you realize that what you are getting is something far more interesting – an addition by subtraction experience. The subtraction is any dialogue or action dealing with the reality at hand – the father is dying – and the addition is what we the audience add in way of interpreting what Swanson – the son – is really trying to say. Of course, I can’t be sure what was intended by the filmmakers and every audience member’s interpretation would probably vary, yet still something universally understandable is communicated – emotional avoidance. Swanson’s target is the male nurse, but, when you look at the scene more closely, it could just as easily be himself. Just think of it – a male nurse is caring for his father. He’s doing all those unpleasant tasks that you, as a son, would be doing if not for him. Why would you have any anger towards this man? The only answers I could come up with pointed at Swanson’s unresolved emotional issues with his father and his own shortcomings as a human being. I wondered, does Swanson feel guilty for never having cared for his father in his time of need? Also, I wondered, does the pain of Swanson’s emotional distance from his father run so deep that the mere presence of another man caring for him arouses a kind of emotional jealousy? I use the word jealousy because Swanson, as the full film will show, exhibits such a firm indifference to the emotions of everyone around him that to see one human being caring for another human being must cause him fits. That male nurse’s whole career centres around having the capacity to feel for another human being. This is one fundamental characteristic that Swanson does not possess. He just doesn’t give a s***. That must sting. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that this film, The Comedy, made so many unusual and interesting choices in scenes that it forced me to engage with it in a way that I just don’t when watching more conventional films. And, look, I know you might think I’m just trying to fill in blanks and giving the film more credit than it deserves, but, you’d be wrong. Listen to the accompanying commentary track, which features Alverson and Heidecker, and you’ll quickly realize that these guys had a lot on their minds when they were making this unusual and challenging film. So hats off to THE COMEDY, a strange and ultimately deep moving film.
Country: United States
Duration: 95 min
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Also known as: Komedia,Комедия,The Comedy,Комедията,Komedija