December 18, 2015 -- Most movies are made to entertain people, and most do, more or less. But then there are some movies that are meant to do other things, such as jar us out of our comfort zone, to confront us, to irritate us, to provoke us, to anger us, in order to get us to confront ourselves and our society.
This is one of those in-your-face, angry, confrontational movies. It wasn't just a chore to sit through, it was more like a homework assignment given to you by a teacher who hates your guts. According to the summary of this movie in the Internet Movie Database, this is what the film is about: “En route to meet his estranged daughter and attempting to revive his dwindling career, a broken, aging comedian plays a string of dead-end shows in the Mojave Desert.”
I think that summary is probably correct, because it probably was written by some publicist, who got it from somebody who helped to make the film. I sure didn't get that storyline, except for the “dead-end shows” part from watching the movie. I might have been able to get the Mojave Desert location by doing some research on landmarks in the movie (the only one I recognized was the aircraft bone yard near Victorville, CA) but the rest of it is more ambiguous than the synopsis would suggest.
The main character, The Comedian (played by Gregg Turkington of “Ant-Man,” a real comedian and actor) is a very angry man. As the movie opens, he is telling jokes to convicts in prison, and he's actually kind of funny, but as the film goes on, he gets angrier and more depressed until he finally has an emotional breakdown. As he travels along dusty desert roads, he frequently appears on this last chance desert circuit with another entertainer, a clown, Eddie the Opener (Tye Sheridan of “Mud”) who becomes increasingly concerned with the comedian's deteriorating emotional state.
I kept getting distracted by The Comedian's appearance and attitude because he reminds me of the character “The Penguin” in the TV series Gotham City. I kept thinking either he was going to kill somebody because he was so angry and frustrated, or that somebody was going to kill him because he kept insulting people in his audience with really nasty remarks. Finally, somebody in the audience did strike back, but it wasn't much of an attack.
Instead of playing it safe, The Comedian uses even more repetition, more vicious, angry jokes and finally, at one stop, he doesn't tell any jokes at all. He just grabs a trophy from a stand and makes various gun and bomb noises while he points the trophy at the audience like a gun. The host tells him, “We're not paying for that.”
All during the trip, he leaves messages on his daughter's voice mail. Apparently, she never answers the phone. Maybe she's not allowed to answer. Maybe the number has changed. Maybe there never really was a daughter. All we know is that he never gets through and he is sadder every time he calls. Driving from one venue to another he passes through endless dirt roads in the desert. It looks like a post apocalyptic landscape.
The Comedian's well-polished routine and his entertainment inside jokes are clearly tailored for a more hip audience composed entertainment insiders, but that isn't the audience he is playing to. These are just regular folks who are not interested in his opinion of Carrot Top. Nothing he is telling his audience has any bearing at all on their lives.
There are some strange interludes where he seems to be involved in some party with scantily-clad people, with some kind of color immersion therapy, he delivers a baby in a restroom, he goes on various sightseeing tours, he walks out on an Internet video blog session and visits with his none too bright cousin, John (John C. Reilly of “Guardians of the Galaxy”).
The Comedian is on a voyage to nowhere and nothing. He plays out the string until there is no string left. It is hard to tell if he ever had much of a life, or what he has left, if anything. This is profoundly disturbing and sad. This film is strictly for those who like “art cinema” in which the object is not to entertain, but to confront the audience with the filmmaker's bleak ideas about the meaning, or meaninglessness, of life. It isn't my cup of tea, but maybe it is for you. This film rates a C.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.