Thursday, November 12, 2015

ENTERTAINMENT isn't -- unless you're on that very special Rick Alverson wavelength

When TrustMovies sat down to view ENTERTAINMENT, the latest film from Rick Alverson, he vaguely recalled the filmmaker's name. After watching Entertainment, he looked up Alverson and realized that, sure enough, he'd seen the filmmaker's earlier work, The Comedy (TM's review of which can be found here). In the annals of filmmaking, I suspect that Mr. Alverson, shown below, may rate as one of the oddest ever to see his films obtain theatrical release: the least desirous (and perhaps the least able) of giving audiences anything like what they are used to (and most probably both expect and want to be) seeing and hearing.

This writer/director (his co-writers here are his star, Gregg Turkington, and Tim Heidecker, who starred in The Comedy) has again come up with a character and situation, the likes of which you'll have never encountered in your wildest dreams: a stand-up comic whose routine barely qualifies as funny and whose audience is made up of outliers from prisoners to the denizens of comedy clubs in deserted areas which civilization seems to have bypassed completely.

The Comedian, for that is how he is billed (played by Turkington, below), tells jokes in an angry fashion, and when he is heckled by those in his audience, which occurs with some regularity, lashes out at them fiercely.

His act is preceded by that of a young man (Tye Sheridan, below, of Mud and Joe) who wears a semi-clown costume and whose "comedy" consists solely of bouncing up and down. Whether the filmmaker means us to take this as the level to which our current "entertainment" has fallen, or maybe to understand that this is the best that outlying audiences would deserve, I can't say.

Either way, unless Mr. Alverson is trying to prove himself a modern-day Samuel Beckett, his film makes little sense on any kind of literal level. As it proceeds, the comedian makes regular phones call to his daughter, all unanswered, and so he leaves short, longing messages. But as there is no back-story, we're only left to wonder about all this, which in any case seems designed to give us a reason a care about our our poor, nutty protagonist. But the comedian hates his audience (Alverson must, as well), and of course he also hates himself.

Subsidiary characters include John C. Reilly (above) as some kind of cousin/friend, who gives the comedian advice; Michael Cera, sporting very short hair, as a rest-stop hitch-hiker; and Lotte Verbeek as a :Chromotherapist, giving a lecture on color; plus a few more well-known indie performers.

Repetitive beyond understanding, as well as perhaps the indie endurance test of all time, Entertainment proves a vision of hell for the performers, their audience -- and us, the real audience here. Offering ultra-widescreen vistas (of little that proves interesting), the movie builds (I use that word loosely) to a climax involving the opportunity to do his stand-up act at the estate of an important Hollywood big boy. What happens is... oh, but why spoil it for you?

The IMDB credits list 30 producers on this film, which may be -- short of Kickstarter-funded movies -- some sort of record. I think it may have been since viewing Gus van Sant's Gerry that I've seen a film this wayward and pointless. But if you prize something slow and different above all else, Entertainment may prove to be yours -- in spades.

The movie -- from Magnolia Pictures and running 110 very long minutes -- opens tomorrow, Friday, November 13, in New York City at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, and in Toronto at the Carlton Cinema. In the weeks to come it will hit a number of other major cities across the country. Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates with cities and theaters listed.

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