Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
November 21, 2012
***1/2 (out of four)
From a perspective I’d characterize as “wrong,” “The Comedy” could be seen as the tragedy of the rich white man. Swanson (Tim Heidecker of “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”) has a lot of money and nothing to do, and all the time in the world to do it. Based on the guy’s aimless insincerity and passive-aggressive condescension, he’s also a miserable jerk.
In fact, this disturbing, observant drama merely features a lonely, ambitionless man scared to confront his impending inheritance of his sick father’s estate. Director/co-writer Rick Alverson allows viewers to imagine much about Swanson’s backstory. What’s evident is he’s lived a challenge-free life of privilege, and the addition of denial and boredom becomes a dangerous social cocktail.
Psychologically existing above it all despite his schlubby appearance, Swanson pretends to work ordinary jobs such as gardening or sales. He eventually takes a minimum-wage gig as a dishwasher and treats it as a joke. The movie’s title, of course, is the sad desperation of a person so intent on not taking life seriously that everything presents an opportunity for a laugh. In church, Swanson and his pals (Eric Wareheim, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem) apply holy water as if it were cologne and climb over pews. In conversation, Swanson prefers extremes, referencing Hitler’s flatulence and the cleanliness of “hobo dicks” as if facetiousness would defend him from accusations of arrogance or bad taste.
“The Comedy” never quite pushes Swanson out of his comfort zone. Yet Heidecker’s spot-on performance anchors a deceptively wise study of the rug being pulled out from someone who’s probably never before cleaned a rug himself. (No one who sees the opening scene in which the guys party and pour beer down tighty-whiteys will expect anything in the time zone of intelligence.)
At one point, Swanson challenges a friend to guess when 10 seconds has passed. For guys whose schedule consists of shenanigans constantly decreasing in satisfaction, every tick of the clock booms like a cannon.
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