Nothing Amusing To See Here
He’s not funny. He doesn’t smile.
He hates his job. We hate his style.
A comic who depresses folks
should try to write some cheerful jokes.
But then we see he’s in the dumps.
We’re sorry when he takes his lumps.
So pathetic is this poor guy
that watching him soon makes us cry.
Entertainment the title reads.
But nothing fills amusement needs.
No pleasure comes from this movie.
It’s just as sad as it can be.
If you can’t bring yourself to applaud because the performance was lousy, then applaud because it’s over. They tried! – author Mark W. Boyer
Entertainment is about the way things should be. Art is about the way they are. – film critic Roger Ebert
Clearly, filmmaker Rick Alverson’s Entertainment belongs more under the Art category than the Entertainment umbrella. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Still, because I love movies primarily for their entertainment value, this gloomy offering was painful viewing for me. And so I applauded because it was over, as Mr. Boyer recommends. They really did try!
For example, actor/co-writer Gregg Turkington succeeds completely in projecting the broken nature of the aging comedian whose journey involves a series of terrible gigs as he travels through the Mojave desert. His sullen expression, stringy hair, hunched-over shoulders, huge glasses and annoying delivery help make the character he plays convincing on screen. When he tells his awful jokes, we can’t help cringing. We’re even glad not to be actually attending any of his desperate performances. The comedian’s repetitive failures become almost hypnotic.
Too bad we have no background information about why he chose stand-up comedy as a profession and what led to his great sadness. Is it true that comedians have to be miserable to be funny? (That topic gets explored in Misery Loves Comedy, a revealing 2015 documentary.) Of course, the comedian in Entertainment isn’t funny at all.
Among the supporting cast members, John C. Reilly stands out as a friendly relative trying to help the comedian. This bit of kindness ends up being a ray of sunshine in a mostly bleak world.
No doubt about it, comedy is hard. Maybe that’s why so many films have been made about the subject. Here are the ones I enjoyed the most: Punchline, The King of Comedy, Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show, Mr. Saturday Night, and Goodbye Baby.
(Released by Magnolia Pictures and rated “R” for language, crude sexual material, a disturbing image and brief drug use.)
For more information about Entertainment, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.