31 October 2012 | StevePulaski
It's as if there was no-no plan, just no-no plan
Perhaps after Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie left me in shock and dismay and The Comedy left me with an unmoved, lukewarm feeling, I must accept that the humor and stylistic intentions of anti-humor comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim is just not for me. But I simply can't do that. I want to like their humor and their avant-garde style because I believe their aptitude for deadpanning humor and their incredibly sophisticated productions prove that their talent for filmmaking in a variety of fields is deep inside them. Rarely do I watch a film that I'm not fond of, yet still think, "there's something here, and while I'm unable to completely enjoy it, it's too blunt for me to ignore." Re-reading my review of Billion Dollar Movie, a film I awarded a mere one star to back in March, while recognizing that Tim and Eric's Adult Swim program, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, has most likely garnered a dedicated cult following because of its "inane dialog and anti-humor setup," I neglected to say that I still believe there is something reminiscent of talent in that film. I see more of it in The Comedy, the latest from the two men who, from what I assume, will try and dab into the film industry after concluding their popular program.
We are greeted with Swanson (Tim Heidecker), a roughly middle-aged man, disillusioned and unhappy about everything in life for reasons I, and perhaps he, can not even explain. He wallows in not a puddle or a sea, but an ocean of self-loathing, as he continues to waste time with his friends, mainly aging hipsters (one of whom, played by Eric Wareheim), and even after inheriting the desirable amount of money from his father, Swanson remains depressed and uninterested throughout life.
Does this sound like an interesting film? I believe it could be, if it were taken with direction and clarity. What I believe The Comedy tries to do is give people a taste of what it is like for some wealthier people who have it all; money, no worries, and no inhibitions, yet they feel incomplete, robbed of something, whether it be connection or humanity, which makes them unable to form any remote feeling of happiness in their everyday life. The problem here lies in the film's lack of ambition, and its inert attitude towards its premise and direction. To drum up an interesting premise just to utilize it as a cop out to have it labeled "a film about nothing" is a little disheartening to the viewer and the audience, don't you think? Heidecker's performance is a strangely gifted one; he embodies his character convincingly, despite the fact he isn't given much to really do. His sulky, indifferent attitude is effective and his constantly careless appearance adds to his character's reputability. But what sealed the deal for me as to why this film falls flatter than one would believe is its excessive use of dirty-minded, filthy dialog which requires not a mouthful of soap, but a full-on deep-cleaning of the mouth as soon as possible. From reading my reviews, take The Hangover and Ted for example, you should be able to understand that vulgarity is not usually an issue for me. A raunchy comedy, bring it on, I can handle it. But for a film that comes across as a man alienated by a fast-paced, dictated society, whose only life goals seem to be to get from point-A to point-B in one piece, to have lengthy monologues on feces under ones finger nails, injury by anal regurgitation, and "dirty homeless semen" is foul, grotesque, and reprehensible in this context.
Concerning other pictures centered on societal disconnect and the complete satirizing of modern life, for example, the beloved Taxi Driver or a more recent film, The Details, The Comedy trips on its own shoelaces by emphasizing on things it should be tuning out and mistaking a meandering narrative for ninety minutes of depth. Inhabited by a decent chunk of capable performances, especially by its lead, and competent direction by Rick Alverson, yet ultimately kicked to the ground by petty little things, it's almost as if there was no-no plan, just no-no plan.
Starring: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, James Murphy, and Gregg Turkington. Directed by: Rick Alverson.