Entertainment (Sundance 2015)

7 Feb

What is the difference between Courtney Love and the American flag?

This is one of the many questions comedian Neil Hamburger (Gregg Turkington) asks his audience in the anti-humor film Entertainment. Written by Tim Heidecker from The Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Joband directed by Rick Alverson (The Comedy), the film follows an aging comedian as he stumbles his way across an increasingly surreal landscape. He crosses paths with a number of bizarre characters played by Michael Cera, Tye Sheridan, and John C. Reilly.

Entertainment as a film acts a metaphor for Hamburger’s comedic routine, which is ironic considering the film defies every single notion its title implies. The audience is forced to watch Hamburger perform his off-color and sad jokes in front of an unimpressed audience at a series of late-night bar shows. The pain and awkwardness of these shows only becomes subsided by incredibly lengthy takes of Hamburger wandering around some deadbeat tourist attraction or making creepy phone calls in an effort to reconnect with his estranged daughter. It’s as if Alverson and Heidecker were purposefully trying to make something that would not only offend their audience, but drive them to a near-maddening boredom as well.  If so, they completely succeeded; I counted 28 walkouts within the first hour of Entertainment’s running time – and this was at a private screening reserved for the press.

Despite what some reviewers will say, I don’t believe there is a such thing as a “good B movie”.  A film is a terrible one regardless of what the artists’ intentions may be. So what if they succeeded in making a bad film? it’s still just a bad film. The characters here are so excruciatingly annoying and the narrative is so bizarrely infuriating that it’s hard to see any redeeming qualities in Entertainment at all. While general audiences should loath this film with disdain, those few individuals familiar with and fans of Neil Hamburger’s style will surely have a new cult favorite on their hands. Heaven help them.

Rating: 1/10 

Similar to: Gummo (1997), Escape From Tomorrow (2013), The Comedy (2012)

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