by Mike Bookey
There are times during The Comedy when you’ll look away and perhaps check your watch to see how much more time is remaining in the film. During a viewing of virtually every other film ever made, this would be a sign that you’re watching something awful.
Somehow, that’s not the case. Perhaps this movie was made so you will hate it. At least that’s the best I can surmise from director Rick Alveson’s beyond-mumblecore study of a past-his-prime Brooklyn hipster who has all the money in the world but not a single care for it.
Tim Heidecker plays Swanson, a 35-year-old whose uber-rich father is about to kick the bucket, but all Swanson can do is sit by his bedside, whiskey in hand, and convince the attending male nurse that he has shit in his mouth. When Swanson’s not living out on his sailboat or transporting one-night stands out to said boat, he’s mostly just doing, well, nothing of consequence.
Swanson hangs with his friends — whose names, professions or history we never learn — drinking heavily and making hilarious quips that the gang is too hip to laugh at. That gang consists of Heidecker’s Tim and Eric cohort, Eric Wareheim, LCD Soundsystem front man James Murphy and comic Neil Hamburger. Several scenes feature the guys swilling various ironic alcoholic beverages — Colt 45, even — and giving monologues to each other that are intensely funny. But they just sit there and critique why this is funny. It’s weird.
There’s not much of a storyline here, other than a strung-together series of scenes featuring Swanson growing increasingly bored with his life to the point that he goes out and finds a dishwashing job, trying to carve out a semblance of purpose in his life.
Offensive and appalling at times and probably an endurance test for the viewer, The Comedy pulls through as an excellent character study. We watch as Heidecker portrays a man whose hipster irony has stripped him of emotion or any path in life. It’s as brilliant as it is completely annoying.
You’ll likely begin the film thinking that this is an ode to all things hipster and that the filmmakers want you to realize that a life lived outside of Williamsburg is not a life lived at all. That’s not the case, though. Rather, it seems The Comedy is hell-bent on showing how utterly exhausting and soul-crushing it is to be ironic and sarcastic all the time.
Go see it. You might hate it, but that might be the point.
Playing at Magic Lantern in Spokane