It’s not often that a movie makes my stomach turn, makes my brain matter want to set itself on fire. I have a pretty high constitution when it comes to to tolerating things “I don’t like.” In fact, I often go out of my way to engage with things that, in general, I disagree with. In my opinion, it’s a good way to learn true empathy and helps to inform a good all around perspective on life, artistic expression, etc.,and when it comes to movies, no matter how bad it is, I can usually sit through it without any real problem. I’d say I watch just as many things I dislike as things that I like. It doesn’t matter the genre, the quality of acting, or whatever other qualifier you can drum up, I’ll engage with the material almost entirely free of prejudice. That’s how I usually go about it… The Comedy really, really tested my resolve in a way that hasn’t happened in a long time.
I’m not really sure where to start, or if there is even a good place to. It’s an aimless movie that struggles to say anything beyond “rich, white, middle aged people are out of touch with how people outside of their circles live, but you should know it’s just due to the fact that they are wealthy and in a state of arrested development, because of said wealth,” and that’s about it. Yes, it is as riveting as it sounds…
There isn’t a ton of dialogue, most scenes are of Tim Heidecker doing what Tim Heidecker does, acting awkward and putting people off. In his other output it’s usually all pretty innocent, but here there’s something really fucked at the core. There’s no characterization, no growth, and the story that’s being told is totally on the periphery. It’s about how this spoiled man child is dealing with his dying father and a brother that is either in prison or rehab. The movie is so obtuse about all of it that it has a hard time communicating why any of it matters and why we should care. The main character is so unlikable that under any circumstance, whatever the context provided, I can’t really see myself ever being able to connect with him, even on the most base human level. Because he’s not a person, not really and, to be fair, he’s not supposed to be. In fact, nothing that happens in this movie is supposed to matter.
The “creative” minds behind this project belong to a kind of unspoken anti-comedy comedy collective. They try to find ways to make people laugh from things that are, well, not really funny. The most mainstream example of this style of comedy would probably be Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, which is what drew the attention of the director of The Comedy, Rick Alverson, in the first place. I can’t say that I openly love this style of comedy. Sure, there are things that will occasionally make me laugh but, overall, I’d say that I appreciate the existence of this kind of stuff more than I actually enjoy it. This kind of stuff seems to exist as an intense comedy workshop of some sort. A lot of really funny stuff spins off of the work that’s done of in this world, I certainly appreciate that but, more often than not, the nuts and bolts of the things can be incredibly grating at times. I don’t know, I’ve always been conflicted about how I feels about this scene.
The Comedy is no different, in terms of what it seems like it’s trying to achieve. It might just be a meta exercise in patience, testing your limits of tolerance and daring you to just turn it off. Given the history of the people involved, it’s probably not out of the realm of possibility, but if we entertain the alternative, that they were actually trying to say something, and that it’s as pretentious as it comes off… Oh, boy…
It was shot over fifteen days and they were working from a twenty page treatment, so the film was mostly improvised. I’m really curious about what this “treatment” was. I mean, the movie is so aimless and random with what happens and what the characters do that I’m having a hard time imagining anything being written down, other than, maybe, a statement of purpose. Something like “Exercise in tolerance” just written over and over again.
I’ll say this for The Comedy, it made me think, and in that it finds some form of success. Isn’t that the best any art, of any subjectively measured quality, can do for a person? If something makes you think in a way that it didn’t intend to, does that means that it still holds some value? Is there merit to be had here? If I got something out of it, however unintended the lesson, does that make it worth experiencing? I honestly don’t have an answer for any of those questions, but when it comes to this flick I’m leaning towards a soft “no.” For me, it wasn’t a complete waste of time, but if I’d never been bored and watched it on Netflix my life wouldn’t be any discernibly different.
With it’s obtuse intentions, miserable characters, and it’s non-existent plot/story, The Comedy is a hard sell to even the most “artsy fartsy” of an audience. Whether it’s a an exercise in tolerance, or making a point about class-ism, there are better movies to watch on either of those subjects. If you’re ever in a position to torture someone, I’d suggest taping their eyes open and making them watch it over and over again, while they explain to you what it’s about.