Sundance ’12 Review: THE COMEDY

Featuring perhaps the most deliciously cringeworthy, homoerotic sequence this side ofJackassThe Comedy drives a deep, un-ironic stake into the heart of current hipster culture and devil may care who ends us hurt in the aftermath. Directed by Rick Alverson and featuring Adult Swim royalty Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!), this excoriating dark comedy seeks to generate laughs not by pleasing its audience but by confronting them with nothing but discomfort and evoking guffaws as a defense mechanism. Heidecker grounds the proceedings as Swanson, a thirty-five year old, bearded, beer bellied yuppie, whose irony-laced existence finds sanctuary within the modern mecca of hipsterism: Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The son of a well-to-do but sickly father and brother to mentally unstable sibling, Swanson wiles away his days in mild boredom without material worry or care.

To generate any feeling whatsoever in his PBR-soaked existence, Swanson and coterie of other well-off, slumming douchebags with matching facial hair (including Wareheim) engage in cruel, relentless games of mockery and ironic irreverence. Constantly picking apart any moment of genuine humor or emotion until it is reduced to dust. Through a series of aleatory episodes that he lazily wafts into and out of, Swanson slowly begins a spiral of self-loathing that one can hope bottoms out into a moment of self-reflection or, perhaps, revelation. Fat, drunk, and rude, Heidecker’s turn as Swanson epitomizes the Jack Black-ification of male culture to perfection. In Swanson, he reduces the nerd’s unleashed id to a precise, annoying crescendo. A Hope Diamond of intellectual scumbag.

Strangely enough, this syndrome of the chubby, witty, somewhat charming hipster is the dark side of Revenge of the Nerds. While that story embodied empowerment and confidence within that always maligned social class, it unleashed its perhaps inevitable brother – the “I’m not that cute but smart, funny, and charming so you should still definitely fuck me” guy. The problem with that is for every one of them who is sincere and kind, there are as many assholes if not more hidden amongst the crowd. Moreover, the film focuses its lens on perhaps the most rarified group of these people: the hipster. Everyone know at least one, and the most successful are essentially these same nerds with overconfidence and brimming with cold irony. What they forget though is that irony will ultimately deaden emotion.

Heidecker and cast slowly come to this realization through episodes like drunkenly taunting an African-American neighborhood bar’s patronage or moronically sitting by while a young woman endures an epileptic seizure. The disconnection between reality and humanity is so distinct that an audience would be foolish to miss it, or perhaps, do so out of protection. Already, the film has proven polarizing amongst Sundance audiences but this is perhaps the greatest reaction possible. For it can be argued that some film critics and bloggers today may easily be included in this class of overconfident, emotionally immature manchildren.

Far be it from me to name names or throw everyone under the bus, but often times when one looks in the mirror and doesn’t like what is seen, the reaction isn’t positive. Ultimately, that may be The Comedy’s greatest virtue, by mercilessly displaying the solipsism and misanthropy that irony can induce in individuals through culture, be it through Pabst Blue Ribbon or too much bad mumblecore. If you like this film then great, and if you are pissed off at it then that’s probably even better.

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