Plot: Swanson (Tim Heidecker) is an aging hipster who is indifferent to the world around him, even the fact that his father is in his final days. Instead of grief, Swanson harasses the caretaker and brings up the unpleasant nature of the work, before leaving to meet up with his friends. He and his friends engage in all kinds of disruptive, often offensive antics, but no matter how over the top and wild the group can be, Swanson is always left feeling hollow. His life has immense privilege, as money seems to be no concern, to the point he doesn’t even care about the windfall inheritance he will receive when his ill father passes on. He seeks out experience after experience, but nothing seems to shake him out of a mindset of pointlessness. As his life descends into one desperate scenario after another, can he find some meaning in any of it?
Entertainment Value: The Comedy is a bleak, dark insight into the human condition, not a pleasant journey perhaps, but one that has a lot to say and the movie does so with an almost experimental art approach. If you’re familiar with Tim & Eric, you have a point of reference for the kind of experience this movie offers, but this is much more sincere and grounded, though still often unsettling and surreal. The narrative is loose, more of a snapshot of a brief stretch of Swanson’s life, so if you need a cohesive, straight ahead story to follow, this might frustrate you. We’re dropped into his life, shown a little of his experiences, then pulled back out again, but there is a sense of progression, even if not resolution. The pace is slow at times, but has bursts of manic energy that more than carry the more deliberate, intimate moments. And the slower scenes are by no means dull, as they’re often the more uncomfortable or awkward ones, which are often the most memorable. I do think some will find this overly dark or depressing, which makes sense, but I found it to be both depressing and wildly hilarious, sometimes even at the same time. I think The Comedy is masterful and conjures up a grounded, yet surreal experience that has to be seen to be believed.
I took an interest in this one at first because of Tim Heidecker, as seeing him in a lead role in a feature film sounded like something I had to witness. If you’re here for the same reason, perhaps because you’re a fan of Tim & Eric, I don’t think you’ll be let down here, though the tone and approach are much different here. As I said before, this is played in a grounded, sincere fashion, so even in the most absurd moments, things have a strangely believable texture. So you won’t find the more outlandish or extreme flashes of Tim & Eric’s style, but the overall surreal approach and manic elements should scratch that itch, I think. Heidecker’s performance is excellent, he is able to nail the detachment of Swanson, as well as the rare sparks of regret and hopelessness. Not a simple role by any means, but one that is right in his wheelhouse and he more than delivers, scene after scene. Eric Wareheim is also around in several scenes, but his role is a smaller one and he doesn’t have the depth Heidecker is given to work with. All of Swanson’s friends perform well and while similar, each have a unique vibe and the banter/hazing between them is wild to watch. The cast also includes James Murphy, Gregg Turkington, Grace Kiley, and Kate Lyn Sheil.