is a movie starring
Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly, and Tye Sheridan.
En route to meet his estranged daughter and attempting to revive his dwindling career, a broken, middle-aged comedian plays a string of dead-end shows in the Mojave desert.
Fascinating and ambitious, if not always successful
A fascinating and ambitious mess, with echoes of David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch and Stanley Kubrick among others. Beautifully shot and full of careful and striking lighting and compositions, this tragic-comic character study of an abrasive, sad, utterly unsuccessful stand up comic has a number of surreal scenes and images that are deeply affecting and/or quite funny.
There are also a number of scenes that seem needlessly repetitive, or working way too hard to be self-consciously weird. And the film definitely feels long.
Back on the plus side, it's made more complex and interesting by the fact that the stand up character in his off-stage real life is outwardly nothing like the hyper-annoying, aggressively unfunny and gross person he plays on stage. He's quiet and introverted and seems more terribly and dangerously depressed than angry. However, under the surface the comic and his on-stage alter ego share a desperate sense of alienation from other human beings, and it's that terrible modern isolation that's at the heart of the film.
Extending that exploration, 'Entertainment' plays with an interesting meta idea. What if an arty, self-referential surrealist comic like Andy Kaufman (or this film's lead Gregg Turkington) spent their career playing their most difficult and abrasive alter-ego like Kaufman's Tony Clifton (or star Turkington's Neil Hamburger, who is the basis of the on stage persona here), but instead of playing for crowds of hip and 'knowing' urban young people 'in on the joke', they only got to do that act in sad, barely populated working class dive bars out in the middle of the California desert, where the inside joke is totally lost for the audience. It raises interesting questions about perception and comedy, and how much of our enjoyment of hip ironic distance in modern entertainment is a cover for something wounded and broken inside us.
It's a difficult film I'd be hesitant in recommending to most other people, and that I have my own reservations about. Yet I find that since I've seen it, moments, images and performances are aggressively haunting me in a powerful way, and make me look forward to seeing it again.
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