Review by Rachel Flanagan
In 2012, director Rick Alverson delivered the 2012 Sundance competition entry The Comedy to audiences who found it anything but a comedy. Instead, the film was a tragic case study of a thirty-something slacker leading a privileged life indifferent on the news that he will be inheriting his father's estate.
Entertainment, in keeping with Alverson's sardonic movie titles, may have audiences finding it anything other than entertaining, but for the right audience, namely fans of Gregg Turkington and his intentionally bad comedic alter ego, Neil Hamburger, they will find endless sadness in this anti-comedy flick.
Entertainment is a dreary look at a middle aged, pot-bellied, man who may tell jokes for a living but finds no reason to smile on a tour through middle of nowhere destined for a celebrity party in Hollywood with hopes to see his estranged daughter. While a young hobo clown opens the shows in prisons, honky-tonk bars and other such nowhere venues, Turkington is found donning his comedic uniform. Emphasizing his imperfections, he wears an old tux and a wet greasy comb over while on stage he holds three drinks and constantly coughs up phlegm. With the exception of prison inmates, the audiences rarely laugh at his "what is" and "Why" jokes and when they heckle him, they get crass remarks that barely even boarder being funny from the comedian. In between events, he fills his downtime with off the wall tours (like an airplane graveyard) and leaving voicemails on his daughter's phone while sleeping in scummy motels and sometimes on a couch provided by the folks who paid him for his gig.
The movie does have a few cameos in hopes for comedy off the stage. Notably are the appearances by John C. Reilly who portrays a long-lost cousin of Gregg's. He shows up once at a show and offers up some unsolicited advice on how to appeal to a wider audience and later Gregg stays at his house. Another cameo appearance occurs when Michael Cera shows up in a rest stop bathroom and has an awkward interaction with Gregg that cuts away shortly before you figure out whether or not you're supposed to laugh or cringe.
If you wait for the arc of the movie, where Turkington finds himself having an existential crisis, you'll be waiting as the credits roll. Instead, the movie is one flat look at Gregg Turkington traveling through the middle of nowhere with varying scenes of his comedy, his meager living, or varying interactions with characters he meets along his way through the desert. The movie will find its audience through people who enjoy Neil Hamburger and his intentionally unfunny portrayal of comedy and through those who kind of enjoy the pain of others. Rick Alverson's Entertainment is filled with thoughtful sadness and loneliness that you may just find yourself feeling sorry for a character whose sole purpose is to be antisocial, offensive and is actually quite content with his repellent nature.
take you through a twisted and slightly disturbing abyss of isolation but it does so in an incredibly artful sort of way.
Director: Rick Alverson
Writer: Rick Alverson, Gregg Turkington, and Tim Heidecker
Starring: Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Michael Cera, Time Heidecker, and Amy Seimetz
Opens Theatrically and on VOD November 13th in New York and November 20
th in Los Angeles.