Starring Rick Alverson, Tye Sheridan, John C. Reilly, Michael Cera, Dean Stockwell
We already know some people will laugh at anything, and certain people only laugh at certain types of things. Writer/director Rick Alverson seems keen on this observation and from what I heard in the audience at SXSW everyone certainly does have their particular brand of off beat humor. There wasn’t one sequence in the film that received overall laughter, instead pockets of varying laughter throughout, often times only one or two people audibly laughing at a time. Entertainment is one of the most unusual comedies, actually maybe it isn’t even a comedy, maybe it’s an experiment. Gregg Turkington a previous Alverson collaborator on The Comedy co-wrote the script. It’s difficult not to draw comparisons from this character to Andy Kaufman’s alter ego Tony Clifton when he is on stage.
Traveling through desert pit stops and forgotten hotels, Neil Hamburger, The Comedian (Tuckington) holds three drinks on stage, sipping each, vulgarly insulting popular celebrity’s, using grotesque body fluid humor and verbally attacking anyone in the drunk audience that might interrupt him. Off stage the comedian is reserved, always remembering to leave message for his daughter and joins local tourists in historical site seeing. His depressing, bottom feeding, performance career seems to suck all of his energy out, but when he adds the grease to his hear and gets a little alcohol inside him he shifts into a completely different person, an alter ego with “what” and “why” jokes so bad they are almost funny. His young comedic sidekick, warm up act, Eddie The Clown (Sheridan) appears to be his only friend.
Entertainment is a barrage of bizarre images strung together with no real explanation.
“Semen is a bit much”, cousin John (Reilly) admits after catching one of the shows. The attempt at humor is unapologetic, so much that a drink hurled at the comedians head when he calls a young woman in the audience a whore for interrupting him. The audience receiving his style of entertainment rarely laughs, but the jokes are not funny, just awkward and in such bad taste it makes the live audience watching the film respond with laughter. Sheridan’s clown is almost as obnoxious and vile in his delivery as Gene, in one segment he pretends to masturbate to the lounge crowd and then defecate into his black top hat. The crowd, which appear to be as washed up as the main act, barely respond to Eddie either.
Entertainment is a barrage of bizarre images strung together with no real explanation. Gene comes upon a woman giving birth in a men’s roadside restroom, a creepy encounter with Michael Cera, who just wants to keep warm, and what appears to be just interesting elements to the director on a drive through the desert that might look good on film. The pace is so slow, even the audience member clapping the loudest in the end I caught asleep multiple times during the screening. The unsettling musical choice only adds to the anti-humor. At one point in the film, Gene seems so void of material that he begins making fart noises with his lips for the entire act. “We’re not paying for that,” the hotel says, and neither should you.
An unconventional comedy that will test your patience and your limits for laughs.