“Entertainment” Review


Photo taken from Magnolia Pictures

People like Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim and Gregg Turkington have become known as the creators of ‘comedy’ shows that focus on the deconstruction of comedy to the point where it is totally unrecognizable. This type of humor is often referred to as ‘anti-comedy’ and while it has been gaining ground in the late night television market, it really hasn’t been very successful outside of that. One more recent example would be “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie”.  Which was an adaptation of Heidecker and Wareheim’s comedy show. It failed critically and commercially, with the only fans of it being already existing fans of the source material. Recently, however, independent filmmaker Rick Alverson has attempted to cast several of these ‘anti-comedians’ into thoughtful and introspective films that dive into the nature of comedy and humanity. In 2012 Alverson released “The Comedy” and in 2015 he has released “Entertainment”.

Turkington mostly plays his stage persona, Neil Hamburger. Who is mostly known as an unfunny, awkward and offensive comedian. He uses this style to add commentary on the state of the comedic industry that he has become a part of. Hamburger is the focus of “Entertainment”. In the film Turkington both plays a version of himself while also playing a version of Neil Hamburger.

The IMDB summary of the film does not do it justice what-so-ever. In fact, it is somewhat misleading. It claims to be a film about Turkington traveling across the California desert to find his daughter. While this does seem to be what Alverson has chosen to loosely tie his narrative to, it’s never the focus.

The daughter,who is supposedly Turkington’s goal, is never seen nor heard. Turkington makes it a habit to call her almost every night before he goes to bed, but he is always speaking to an answering machine. This beautifully ties in the hopeless delusional nature expressed by Turkington’s character every time he calls her.

The theme of solitude is shown visually throughout the entire film. Showing vast open desert landscapes reminds the audience of the post-modern German films of Wim Wenders, particularly the ‘road trilogy’ where films like “Kings of the Road” or “Paris, Texas” use the emptiness of the American desert as visual metaphors.

The film as a whole looks absolutely excellent. In a year of narrative exploration but visual stagnation, “Entertainment” grabs the attention of the viewer with striking and original imagery; the standout being when Turkington attends a seminar on the relation of color to emotion. The use of colors to music is one of the standouts of not only the film, but Alverson’s entire filmography.

Turkington delivers a performance that looks most like a schizophrenic, turning on a dime from quiet and troubled comedian Turkington to the loud and offensive Hamburger. Hamburger, in a particular scene, goes overboard in offending a young girl. In this scene some of Turkington’s personal demons present themselves in the performance. Possibly displaying a merging of the man and the performance. This ability to express a breakdown in psychological function is only a fraction of not only Alverson’s abilities as a director, but also Turkington’s range as an actor.

“Entertainment” is terrifying in its imagery and beautiful in its poetry. It follows through on the promise that Alverson delivered in “The Comedy” back in 2012. Alverson seems to have found his foothold in the realm of anti-comedy, and I hope that this brings the introspection on the realm of comedy to the forefront and out of only the late night market.

By Vaughn Cockayne



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