Director: Rick Alverson
Cast: Gregg Turkington, John c. Reilly, Amy Seimetz
Spoilers Within: No
Film 6 – #27 in ‘The Hard Drive Randomiser’
When I lived in London, a frequent topic of conversation amongst friends was about the (admittedly broad) conversation of comedy, and what specifically tickles you. This conversation would hit its logical peak of sharing and watching a flavour-of-the-week YouTube video or cycling back to the old classics that made you laugh. My answer, no matter where it began in the conversation, would eventually revert to bizarro cringe comedy, specifically that of Tim and Eric, Nathan Fielder and Eric Andre. They’re not for everyone, and that’s okay, but no matter my mood, their specific brand of off-comedy will always be met with a smile or a hearty, genuine belly laugh.
Rick Alverson, following up 2012 favourite The Comedy, brings this specific style of uncomfortable humour to America’s Southwest as an unnamed fringe comedian – played with unflinching determination by Gregg Turkington – tours dingy basements, cheap motels and dive bars: all of which greet him with murmured disinterest or blatant hostility.
The approach to comedy in Entertainment is as confrontational and aggravating as the comedian’s on-stage provocations; Alverson and co-writers Heidecker and Turkington echoing what seems like their beliefs on the state of mainstream media by taking an actively offensive stance toward the braying crowd of displeased patrons. This outlook lends a wholly honest appeal to Turkington’s desperation, giving a similar sense of discomfort that The Comedy was so good at.
There’s an emptiness to Turkington’s character that is frequently hard to swallow, the veiled desperation at sticking to his act in defiance of popularity is repeated more times than it perhaps should have been, but this routine perfectly underlines the chasmic void that is visible in his long, blank stares. The pitstops that his tour takes introduces some excellent character actors (I gasped in excitement at every name that appeared in the opening credits), from personal favourite John C. Reilly, to an especially sinister turn from Michael Cera. These don’t amount to a great deal more than delightful cameos, but they serve as a welcome distraction from the purposeful dramatic trainwrecks that beds every scene that Turkington holds on his own.
Alverson is proving to be a fantastic talent in American indie filmmaking, and with his team of Heidecker and Turkington, he’s set to become one of the most vital. I look forward to seeing their next creation, which I assume will be replete with more depressed characters coasting through a listlessly mundane existence, and I’m all for it.