Entertainment

***

Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

En route to meeting with his estranged daughter, in an attempt to revive his dwindling career, a broken, ageing comedian plays a string of dead-end shows in the Mojave Desert.
"It is by turns sad and disturbing - with occasional bouts of highly dubious dark humour."

Narratives about failed comics are never a load of laughs - reference for one classic example The Entertainer by John Osborne and incarnated by Laurence Olivier as Archie Rice.

Here Rick Alverson teams up with stand-up comic Gregg Turkington, whose alter ego is Neil Hamburger, a greasy haired, sweaty and whiney voiced comedian who has a bottomless pit of jokes that begin with what or why. All his punchlines fall flat in a succession of dreary clubs and bars and a prison. He is accompanied by a young performer (Tye Sheridan) who has better luck warming up the audience with is clown antics (although perhaps simulated masturbation and defecation are step too far).

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We learn that the comic is on a desperate search for his daughter with whom he tries to check in on a nightly basis but only gets her voicemail (so perhaps she doesn’t exists after all). The only brief respite is when he has a brief reunion with his cousin (played by John Reilly) whose boisterous optimism is at odds with the general mood of despair.

There’s a tense encounter with a desperate hustler (Michael Cera) and a woman in the audience who takes him on with a flying glass of beer and later gets stuck in physically and leaves him lying in the dust.

Alverson, on his fourth feature film outing, is set on shaking up our expectations in this bleak yet some how compelling journey across the Californian desert and into the contemporary male American ego - full of lost souls, repellent individuals, antisocial rebels and gross-out humour.

At its heart is a scream for succour from a man at the bottom of the pile who can make no human connection, even with his performance cohort. It is by turns sad and disturbing - with occasional bouts of highly dubious dark humour. Alverson clearly marks himself out as a worthy successor to David Lynch’s mantle.

Reviewed on: 12 Aug 2015
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En route to meeting with his estranged daughter, a broken, ageing comedian plays a string of dead-end shows in the Mojave Desert.

Director: Rick Alverson

Writer: Rick Alverson, Rick Alverson, Tim Heidecker, Gregg Turkington, Gregg Turkington

Starring: Michael Cera, John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Lotte Verbeek, Dean Stockwell, Amy Seimetz, Tim Heidecker, Mariann Gavelo, Kalia Prescott, Tonantzin Carmelo, Waymond Lee, Gregg Turkington, David Yow, Ashley Atwood, Dustin Guy Defa

Year: 2015

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: US


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