Short Takes: The Comedy
(Rick Alverson, U.S., 2012)
Written by Nicolas Rapold
As its title signals, filmmaker-musician Rick Alverson’s third feature, an often unpleasant twist on arrested development on and off screen, is a self-conscious endeavor. Tim Heidecker, co-star and co-creator of the cult show Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, plays a compulsively clowning thirty-something Williamsburg heir-in-waiting with sociopathic tendencies. Killing time until his father dies, he hangs out with deadpan-sarcastic friends, annoys people, and beds girls on the houseboat where he lives.
Or, if you like, he inhabits a bubble of entitlement, indifferent to the effect his goading class-conscious, aggressive jokes have on cab drivers, gardeners, bartenders, his sister-in-law, and sundry others. But the rub of Alverson’s film is that the repetitiveness of these episodes and Heidecker’s opaque performance push the character into a strange realm of toxic disaffection. While this could have been the perfect portrait of a certain kind of idiot, the baroque cruelties and tonal monotony go too far.
Shot with a beery drifting affect, it’s a film that shows an individual in a terminal state of obnoxiousness and lonely oblivion of his own making, existing in an apparent cultural vacuum aside from a background haze of music and his own fitful bouts of creativity. As if distilling only the discomfort of Tim and Eric’s pop-junk appropriation comedy, Alverson’s story never comes to grips with its intriguingly unnerving character.