Entertainment, the unsurprisingly bizarre but surprisingly hollow Tim Heidecker-produced existential crisis movie, follows an unnamed comedian (Gregg Turkington) on a stand-up tour he completely bombs. Depressed and anti-social, the only time we see the comedian come to life is when he’s on stage. Besides having an estranged daughter, we don’t really don’t anything about him and to be completely honest, we have no reason to care. The comedian throws a 110 minute pity party for himself, while making absolutely no strides to improve his life or his material.
While the scenes involving the comedian not performing are painfully dull, the film comes to life when he hits the stage. The comedian’s sets are foul and shock-based in a way that completely alienates and confounds the viewer, but they are filmed with the urgency that anything could happen. The lighting and the pacing are perfect. “Why? Whyyyyy? Whhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?” the comedian taunts his audience before shattering his strangely intriguing build-up with a joke about Madonna lactating Alpo. I never felt sympathy for him as people heckled, jeered and literally threw things, but I was completely fascinated with him. Watching Turkington’s comedian immediately brought to mind watching Dean Stockwell and Dennis Hopper duet Roy Orbison in Blue Velvet. Watching something so ridiculous you think you might still be asleep.
Unfortunately, these stellar scenes take up a combined ten minutes of the film. The rest of the hour and forty minutes is full of glacially-paced, pretentiously-shot exposition. The comedian is such an apathetic character that we are unable to give a shit about him. He has all the power in the world to improve his life or at his perspective but he acts like that’s too big of a chore. One scene features Turkington delivering a still-born baby in a truck stop restroom, then awkwardly staring into space for a good thirty seconds. How deep. Life is so fleeting, right? I understand that writer/director Rick Alverson was trying to create a film about a man who is completely disconnected with the world, but in so doing he created a film that was so completely disconnected with it’s audience.
The cast is solid but misused. Tye Sheridan plays a hipster clown that accompanies Turkington on his tour. Michael Cera plays a lonely dude. Speaking of Dean Stockwell, Dean Stockwell and Tim Heidecker play a couple of Hollywood millionaires that scream obscenities at girls in a swimming pool. John C. Reilly, admittedly, the funniest performance of the bunch, is the comedian’s supportive cousin who speaks in mumbles. Gregg Turkington is riveting in his stand-up scenes but practically non-existent in 95% of the film.
In the end, Entertainment has no weight. There is no poignancy or deep irony to be found in it. Much like the comedian’s set, it’s just posturing. Grade: C-