Look who’s laughing – The Comedy (Sydney Film Festival)

The Comedy – Starring Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, and James Murphy. Directed by Rick Alverson. By Richard Haridy.

The Comedy played the Sydney Film Festival. It does not yet have an Australian release date.

Rick Alverson‘s The Comedy is a caustic critique, not only of modern hipster culture, but also a wider generational inability to connect with any experience on an authentic or emotional level. This is ironic detachment taken to its logical conclusion and while I found the film brilliant, I also suspect many will see it as irredeemably futile.

Tim Heidecker (of alternative comedy outfit Tim & Eric) stars as Swanson, an immature 35 year-old who is waiting for his comatose father to die so he can scoop up his healthy inheritance. Swanson spends his days wandering the streets of New York with his pals (Eric Wareheim and LCD Soundsystem front-man James Murphy), making fun of anything and everyone; from taunting taxi drivers to disrupting church goers. Everything is a joke to these guys, so much so they are literally incapable of interacting without an irony filter. They are not mean or pernicious but merely bored, over-privileged examples of western culture.

The Comedy is a relentlessly alienating movie, constantly offering up moments of true hilarity before immediately subverting the humour. At times it almost feels like the gag is on the audience; as if the filmmakers are laughing at us for even watching this seemingly pointless exercise. Of course, the point here is that there is no point. While hipster culture is the butt of many a joke nowadays, we’ve never truly seen a picture that attempts to understand what this phenomenon really is. The Comedy plays as a sharp critique on this prominent cultural movement and its trenchant closing scenes cut like a scalpel.

The Comedy is a fantastic achievement that I very hesitantly recommend. Some will walk out, many will hate it, most will find it vacuous, yet I could say in the spirit of hipsterism: that’s the correct response. As a portrait of a generation that’s not only emotionally stunted but almost collectively sociopathic, this is frightening. For the right audience it’s also damn funny. If I wasn’t so emotionally stunted and able to enjoy things unironically I would say I loved it.

4.5/5

The Comedy played the Sydney Film Festival. It does not yet have an Australian release date.

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