The Comedy, Rick Alverson’s confrontational and deliberately unpleasant independent feature, screens for just two more days at Facets Multimedia. If you don’t mind being provoked at the movies, it’s well worth checking out. The film is built around the daring idea of casting comedians famous for discomforting humor—Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Gregg Turkington (aka Neil Hamburger), and Jeff Jensen—and putting them in a dramatic context that renders their weird behavior doubly strange.
Heidecker stars as a nihilistic Brooklyn layabout whose life seems to revolve around belittling other people. He and circle of friends speak in a sort-of code (a hyperaware version of Heidecker’s and the others’ comedy style) that masks any genuine sentiment behind a wall of obscenities and would-be irony. I mentioned last week that A.O. Scott has called the movie a “case study in hipster obnoxiousness,” and while he meant that pejoratively, it’s still the most succinct description I’ve read of what Alverson’s created. His directorial perspective is notably unsympathetic, but it sticks to the subjects with determination to know what makes them tick. In conversation, Alverson comes across as a thoughtful and mature artist—hardly the simple misanthrope the film’s detractors have made him out to be. I talked to him on the phone a few days before Thanksgiving, just after The Comedy opened in the Brooklyn neighborhood where it was shot.