Comedians are fun people — or so we like to think. However, Rick Alverson’s “Entertainment” is a dark and eccentric commentary on the life of an aged comedian that, ironically, will not leave you laughing in the end.
The Comedian, played by Gregg Turkington, who is an actual comedian off-screen, is at the nadir of his comedic career. He is only referred to as “The Comedian” for the entirety of the film. Listlessly droning from one dead-end gig to the next, drifting between back-alley pubs and sheisty comedy clubs, The Comedian dons his cheap, magician-looking tuxedo and slicks his greasy, water-soaked hair to the side to perform his crass and quite often offensive comedic routine. The Comedian is emotionally detached from everyone that he knows, and anyone that he meets. He attempts to connect with his estranged daughter, but only reaches voicemail every time he calls.
Juxtaposed with The Comedian is his young and enthusiastic opening act Eddie (Tye Sheridan), whose simplistic comedic routine consists of jumping around on tables and stages, clapping his hands and simulating both masturbation and defecation. We are led to assume The Comedian was once as eager as Eddie, but became the remote and detached comedian that we are acquainted with on-screen.
This alienated state that The Comedian finds himself in is emphasized in the film’s physical setting. It takes place in the empty, barren deserts of Bakersfield, California, where The Comedian often finds himself alone, trotting through the empty and barren deserts that surround him.
The film tries very hard to be artful, and in a sense it achieved its goal with its cinematic settings and camera direction. However, it could have done better in regard to its narrative element and keeping the audience engaged with the plot. Director Rick Alverson is known for making the film “The Comedy,” another art-house film aimed at critiquing the strenuous culture of stand-up comedians. “Entertainment” is basically the same movie, covering similar themes.
With actors such as Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly and Michael Cera, one would easily assume that this movie would be humorous. However, that assumption is quickly turned on its head from the opening scene of the film. If you’re looking for a film with a riveting plot, this is not the film for you. But if you are in the mood to delve into the deep, existential questions of human existence and what makes humans laugh, then “Entertainment” will serve that purpose.
“Entertainment” opens in select theaters in New York on Friday, Nov. 13.
Email Dejarelle Gaines at [email protected]